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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.



            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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