Originally appeared in Union by Don Share, Eyewear Publishing, 2013.
Driving to Byhalia
on Old Highway 78, I gun my Sunbird
and a cardinal takes off like a shot.
Last night it rained and flooded,
and today there is a freeze; steam
rises ghostly from the Coldwater River.
Oil kicks up from the blacktop.
I veer down a gravelled,
county road, and skirt
past a blur of Nativity scenes,
one after the other,
that look like improbable cookouts.
This is a belt not of Bibles,
but subsistence farms
with propane tanks,
spray-painted nameboards, and leaning
silos of soybeans.
Down here the dogs
are in charge, and keep their snoots
level as the barrels of shotguns.
Meanwhile, vacant porch rockers
sway idly in the Gulf wind. Arrows
twist like the s’s in “Mississippi”
on successive road signs
which have been ignored, so the skidmarks
tell, except for target practice.
The afternoon is over,
and I haven’t seen a soul.
Yet good hearth-smoke
stealthily fills the iron-colored sky
and mixes with the clouds.
There is just now
the intransigent vapor
of what turns old plow points
and even my wistfulness
is mist. But the earth I see
peripherally, as the Sunbird skims a shoulder,
will be turned up again in spring,
and these legible furrows, these cresting roads
will remain familiar,
arch, loop, and whirl,
like handwriting I remember.
Photo by Kristin Wall