pine plantation



under this stand of pine

cold folds into dark and quiet


snowmelt makes a stream

through the still heart




a riot of leopard frogs

wakes in cattails,

boars snuffle

through moldering needles


mists roll off my coat

into my shoes




sunlight flecks the plantation floor

bluebirds dart between boughs

and pull caterpillars from cones


cool air settles on skin




a lone woodpecker trill

floats in the woods,

a prayer before sleeping




In a spray of tin plates, twisted forks,

empty cans and bits of rusted metal,

chimneys stand alone, skeletons

that grape and creeper hold aloft.


Mortarless stones, kettle handles,

iron bands from barrels

tumble toward the brook.


Children scream and shout there;

Union soldiers, too, drawn up into tree trunks—

roots grown through them—

alive again in asters and bees’ wings.

Elizabeth Dobson, Oct. 7, 1903-April 3, 2001


She was 86 the day we sat in the kitchen

that smelled of ghosts, bread crumbs, and old tea.

She held the newspaper over the table,

“Look at that nigger girl.

Isn’t she pretty?”


Outside, spring threw bolts of green against the windows.

But the kitchen was dim, as always;

the drawers around us bulged with rubber bands,

old bolts, nuts, and screws.


That day, she put burned toast

out the kitchen door,

“The birds will be happy;

they don’t get much from me.”


She went to the home at 88—

$60,000 in the bank

and old notes worth some more:

burnt toast-rubber band-bolt-nut-screw money.


At her funeral, Ione, 97 too,

said grandma was the prettiest,

kindest woman she ever knew,

a good friend, generous,

always devoted to others.


I cupped Ione’s cheek

and remembered that newspaper photo.

We lit a candle, “a prayer to the Virgin,” Ione said.

I stared up at the ivory marble statue,

felt the soft warmth that radiated

from Ione’s coffee-colored skin.


The flanks of Kennesaw Mountain sparkle—

ground baptized with blood

of fertile young men with minds

blank as new tablets.


Harker and McCook,

Vaughan and Cheatem,

like all generals and men

who send children to war,

wander wildernesses, marked;

the ground above their graves barren.


In the night, dust lifts beneath the feet

of Slaves and Soldiers, dancing sons

and daughters of mothers

no longer weary.

Grandpa falls asleep

William Francis Bauer

says he knows things he learned

in ports foreign and domestic

catholic boys aren’t supposed to know.


And being a sinner, he kneels,

eyes to heaven, and repents

for scourging children with rosary beads.


Falling asleep in his chair now,

he mutters about whores in San Diego,

oriental women folded in silks.


Men jump from the destroyer deck,

gulls smoked above.

Sharks flitter in PT boat wakes.

His children float through spires and pipes

of the Grand Canyon.

Spacemen bound across mushroom clouds.

Marie, Marie.


His glasses teeter on ears waving

out from laurel hair wrapped

about his sun-flecked pate—

slight sheen of oil, light fuzz, warm, taut skin—

so small for all of him.


rose of sharon

raises head to heaven

and morning glory

trumpets to honeybees


below, eyes flick under eyelids,

cats dance in your sleep


out there, under redfire gold and lupine blue,

a boy’s just run up a prairie hill—dew heavy shoes,

grasshopper in hand spitting brown and kicking—

and smelled wind from the west

heavy with soil and wheat,

combine diesel and pickup truck smoke


homeward, he watches storms curtain sunsets

from the highway overpass,

waits for thunder to shake the ground


waking, he’s swept away in dark current,

bumps over rocks at the bottom of the river