by Garland Strother
North coming home to Tensas
hardwood parish the river crafted,
we find the places we were
born on, Justina and Mayflower,
plantation names remembered
like hymns not sung anymore.
Chimney, frame, and piers remain
of one house we lived in, the front
porch a footprint now, fig trees
in the backyard still bearing
the smells of canned fruit nothing
can ever change, least of all time.
Nailed to a wall ten years earlier,
stained pages of a calendar keep
counting days no one can recall.
Next door, cotton bolls ready
to pick drop white shadows over
dark soil, small wakes of guilt
the past left behind. Crossing
Plank Road to the levee before
leaving, we climb its back laid fat
with rows of oxbow shells, then
watch the river on the other side,
laying down a delta in layers
of a home we never did leave.
TOO MANY MILES FROM TENSAS
Ice in the streets, frost on the dark, she died
in the long winter of Montana, years of pride
away from home and too many earned miles
from Tensas to count, remembering smiles
from the past dressed up like an old friend
wearing live oak greenery tailored by wind.
Finding her way down a steep-cut pine stair,
she tripped on loose currents of lightless air
and fell, caught in the hard-bottom embrace
of her basement floor. Broken hip replaced,
she moved with metal and another's hand,
her bruises borne asleep, at ease in a land
of far-north nights she also called her own.
Belief enough to last a life lived a third alone,
she lay at rest in the bright fields of memory,
then safely died in peace and sang in mercy.
~ for Georgia Mathews Strother (1907-1986)
A native of Tensas Parish in north Louisiana, Garland Strother lived for several years in Montana and Nevada before returning home to attend graduate school at Louisiana State University. He currently lives in River Ridge, Louisiana, near New Orleans with his wife, Liz. His poems have appeared in South Dakota Review, Arkansas Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Texas Review, Louisiana Review, Muscadine Lines, The Foliate Oak, and other journals.
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