Friday, August 31, 2007

How Magnolias Smell

His feet were filthy dawn to dusk

from early spring until the snow fell

Shoeless he walked to school

chopped firewood

gathered eggs in the chicken coop

kicked at dirt clods walking

as his Uncle Dion plowed the acres

behind the mule, with the 3-legged dog

Etta cooked grits and eggs

baking powder biscuits with honey

all in the woodstove even on

the hottest Tennessee days

He raced with his brothers through the pine forest

way down the sandy lane to the tenant shacks

raked magnolia blossoms on the huge lawn

They waded in the milky

farm pond catching bullfrogs

watching for snakes

and played whatever boys play


in their denim overalls

At night they washed up in the metal tub in the kitchen

cranking water in a bucket from the stone well

never having hooked up the plumbing

to the shiny bathroom on the landing

They slept in the huge room in the attic

with china chamber pots beside their beds

They cut down the cedar tree one summer

immersing the whole "plantation" with the scent

and the green lawn with red shredded wood bits

and strutted in their teenage splendor

back and forth on the fallen giant

Arthur and Byron and Lyle the baby

handsome grinning faces so brown

their teeth glowed white in the photos

Arthur's teeth are mostly gone now

the thick dark waves of hair are short and grey

and spiked in all directions from the pillow

His sturdy brown feet lie quiet

blue veined and soft

whiter than white on the white sheets

He doesn't know his brothers are dead

for my dad on his 89th birthday

September 6, 2007

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