Crest this ridge and leave that silly village
behind. Here, on the first of my hundred peaks,
see how the sky bends down to kiss the hill
like a mother bidding little ones to sleep.
But spare me any sentimental tendresse:
underneath my parched and cracking face
lies the hot, sour stink you thought you’d missed,
the stench of freshly-shoveled Yalobusha clay,
the deep rank of your boyhood inherited
from creeks and banks, from scorching summer days.
Smeared across your skin to stop the sun,
its slime found ears and eyes and teeth and tongue—
so tell me: what have your years now merited?
A crib, a house, a bed, a tomb of clay.
Normally they skip and jump like a child,
leap from car to car, pick one up here
and set it down again there, bathed in air
and dripping in glass and light. The fields
a mosaic of loss, a maze of downed pines,
crushed trucks, and wires hissing rivers
of sparks. —Old news. Passé. What will never
be forgotten is this: the thin, distant whine
before the roar, the sky first black then green,
the shadow passing over me to a house
where it sucked the shoes and socks off their feet,
then took the youngest up by the knees.
Her mother held her by the hair until it passed—
and there was nothing, nothing that it would mean.
A native of Mississippi, Benjamin Morris is the author of Coronary (Fitzgerald Letterpress, 2011), Hattiesburg, Mississippi: A History of the Hub City (Arcadia/ History Press, 2014), and Ecotone (Antenna/Press Street Press, 2017). His work has received fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Commission, Tulane University, and A Studio in the Woods. Formerly a researcher with the University of Cambridge, where he earned his Ph.D., and the Open University (UK), he is presently a member of the Mississippi Artist Roster. http://benjaminalanmorris.com.
Benjamin’s work previously appeared HERE.