J. S. Absher 


Remade, Reborn, Recalibrated

I will wet my feet in the New River
    and be made new,
will take a waterdog for lover
    where the mud is blue
and the sky hangs overhead like a lucky caul. 

I will find peace among the helgrammites
    and the mayfly larvae,
feast voraciously on stonefly
    nymph and waterpenny,
then dive beneath the coldest waterfall

to find fit place among my self-made kin. 
    When I at last am rising
from turbid water to shed my skin
    like a spent shell casing
and stand again in sunlight and rainfall,

I will unfurl wings blazed scarlet and green. 
    I have fed on poison
and self-knowledge, those colors mean: 
    They make me God a season
then toss me off, as empty as a caul.

Eating Life

This was the family’s oldest memory: 
The year the chestnut trees bloomed late,
a soldier captured at Gettysburg returned
from prison on Long Island.  Daddy didn’t
give his name when he told the story, but set
the homecoming at the Grubb place on Dog Creek. 
Said the man was starved from walking all that way
and sat down to an improbable feast—
green beans (fresh picked, pickled, and dried), corn
on the cob and in a pudding, blackeye
and crowder peas, ham, pork shoulder, pot roast
with new potatoes, corn bread with pintos
cooked in fatback, spring onions smooth as a baby’s
butt, and last year’s, dry as an old man’s wattle. 
He ate biscuits and molasses, honey and jam
and fried apples, rhubarb cobbler, pies stacked
in layers, cakes made with a pound of butter,
and just a drop of scuppernong wine.
This is the way to come back from the dead.

Crow Speaks, Crow Spoken

Crow says,
I’ve seen ‘the woeful pine,
the redbug on the Yazoo,’
seen doggeries and the belfries sway
clockwise under my wing. 
—I’m gall-breaker, he tells the grackles
from the steep top of the pine,
I’m busthead and popskull, I’m
craw-grit, hammer-bill, cock-walk. 
I plucked my feathers from Satan’s beard,
my clinker eyes from his fire. 

Crow flies in the sleet,
wings ragged as an old broom,
sweep, sweep, sweep, sweep,
but the full moon keeps falling
in sharp pieces of broken shell. 
Caw, caw, caw, caught
in the white of winter’s eye
that he can’t fly over or under
or see the pine tree through,
the seer is trapped in the seeing.

The quotation in lines 1-2 is from W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South