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Poetry

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul,
O I say now these are the Soul!
—Walt Whitman

By the second week in September nuthatches capture the last
elderberries, excrement purpled and extravagant, sprayed
drunkenly across my truck’s hood. I’ve been thinking about the God
I pray to with no lasting effect and note the effortless work
the stream does as it feeds these bushes. My father was baptized
in the Green River, led by the hand in white robes to be dunked
beneath the current. Sometimes when mother gathers sheets
from the line in late summer, she finds the droppings of a bluebird
written like a sacred text. But what saint could decipher it?
In a field reclaimed by clover, I sprawl sideways and count
the small green hands of the leaves enfolding me. The gentle sshh,
sshh of the wind dismisses my garbled words as they break
the water’s surface or cross over the low hum of bees. Eventually
we have to surface to breathe, accepting the uncertainty of the air
above our heads. At dusk a skein of geese skitters in a half-formed V,
and a skulk of fox pups gnaw at each other’s throats in a game
to prepare for death. Salvation is supposed to be sweet, like the sugar
of a wild grape, but where would we be without the fossil record to lead?
All of us are worth saving, despite the stink we’ve made since learning
to walk upright four hundred thousand years ago. As a boy, when a calf got scours,
my father would search the field for lamb’s ear, collecting its velvet
leaves to better dress the open sores that ran the length of the flanks.
His mother told him mercy is all Jesus wants of anyone. I believe,
despite my unbelief. When the Belgian drapes its sorrel neck
across the paddock gate, I offer him two handfuls of clover
I painstakingly picked.


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