Memory of the Great-Aunts’ House,
After endless forest, dirt roads, I raise my chin
of five years above the dashboard, my grandfather
calling on one leg, his door opened, car running,
and a lady who’d moved so swift on a porch – a
two-story, unpainted wood plank house – bends
to put the barrel of a pointed shotgun down,
waves, says, “C’mon Son!”
Dizzy from the disappearance of people: their
houses, cars, paved roads, I see beyond the yard’s
garden a dark woods of pine and bald cypress,
feel a fear of what’s unfamiliar. Soon there’s
the gray washtub on a stand on the railed porch,
snuff-smell of the tea glass against my lips,
wood stove, my grandfather’s kind refusal
of cooked greens, the kerosene lamp lighted
As early evening shadows grow in the curtains,
the story of the death of the two aunts’ companion,
one pointing a thin finger at a quilt-covered bed,
framed by a doorway — how after days of silence
he shook fists and sang out, how they took him
to the old family graveyard. And my relief of going
from this house with the bed where a man died,
wanting my grandfather to drive away quickly
from the odd place of shadows and buried bones.
A Farm Wife Contemplates Mortality
The quiet grows deeper.
Bats flit in fading dusk. She thinks
again of that place we have never seen
or else forgotten. She misses the weight
of a weary man settling in beside her
to the creak of the porch swing’s chains.
She looks out past all the years
at the old tobacco barn as patterns
of stars gradually settle in above it.
She remembers happier years,
the two of them stripping tobacco,
her settling in to the rhythm of the man
beside her, the routine of long hours,
the happiness in the success of work.
But those two are ghosts now, like
the trellis of pole beans, the stalks
of tomatoes she can barely make out
in the yard beyond the porch, shades
disappearing in growing dark. In the static
hum of katydids and crickets she sings
a reedy lullaby for the daughter they lost
and wants to see them both again. But
nobody tumbles through the universe
from here, unless, like the cow that was struck
by lightning, God suddenly comes for them.
Like her husband she found one hot day
in the cab of the rumbling tractor, his overalls
cold with sweat, his rough hands immobile.
So she sings here softly every night beside
barren fields, will sing here until God
comes for her and they sew up her mouth
for burial, until, finally, she tumbles
through the universe to the other side
of this night’s sky.
Stopping to Witness in Rush to Our Attack Rally Point
In war there’s always the chance of falling
onto a concrete pad in front of a camp’s small
troop medical clinic — like the eight soldiers
who faced down a car bomber’s dart at the gate,
before the flower of his explosion rocked everyone
in camp out of what they were doing.
I pause to watch the stretchers set down
in a line, watch the PA and his medics carefully
lift helmets, rip loose velcro of Kevlar body armor,
hands pressing stethoscopes to chests, abdomens,
ignoring shrapnel lodged in arms, in bloody legs
I see beyond the dirty tread of boot-bottoms —
I’m held here. I know these soldiers.
In war sometimes there is the chance of rising
in a stretcher, leaving a brown-dust snow angel
in a wash of blood on a concrete pad, taken
one by one into the TMC — I won’t see the ER
bustle beyond the single door, but weeks later
I will ask my friend how he feels and see the light
of his smile before a cloud of memory hides it,
as he tells long details of recovery, how he first
woke in the hospital at Bagram, a nurse saying
“You must be hungry.”
An Army veteran, Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property lush with vegetation. He has published two chapbooks, Coastal Scenes and Moment and Time, and has recent work in Willawaw Journal, Sky Island Journal, So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Third Wednesday, Red Eft Review, San Pedro River Review, Poets Reading the News, Gyroscope Review, and other places.