The sun slid down
the screendoor sky, casting
orange over the brush.
Noah had already trudged
home, leaving Jacob
to decide the fate
of the August evening.

He walked along the path
marking the tobacco from
the corn; stands of old stalks
stood against the horizon,
slightly higher than his
head and older
than he could imagine.

Shoved between sheets
of trees, the corn crib
leaned with the wilting
clouds; Jacob marched
through the clods, ground
beneath his boots.

Yards off from the crib
a voice perked his ears,
rising from the husks,
sliding through the slats, and
dragging bits of earth
with it to the pine canopy.

Jacob crept closer, winding
like a strand of kudzu,
through the black-
berry briars.
The sound rapped softly
against the leaves.
The first word he snatched
out of the air hung
like frost on a pine needle,

Curiosity awoke, his slow-eyed dog
and he pressed his ear
against the crib wall
to catch all he could.

“mercy on me
my family. Let my son
know love
let ‘im feel
fear of th’ Lord.
Help me a good father
good husband
to Milly.
water outta rock
in the wilderness”

He pushed down the stalks
of dead corn as he headed home.
He watched Pa eat and wash up
and send them all off to bed
like he’d done each night before.
He lay awake that night, until
the crickets stopped creaking.
The smell of dry husks
made him think of God
still listening between
the slats of a father’s cry.

-W.B. Hurst


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