After the Train Carries Her Son to War,
She Walks the Other Children Home


The baby rides on her back like a rucksack, his sticky hands clinging to her neck, her fingers around his fat ankles. The children are marching, long sticks against their shoulders, leaves on their heads for helmets. At home she’ll feed them cornbread and milk, put the little ones down for naps while she stirs a blackberry cobbler. Supper will be like any other night. Stew, kale, turnips, the cobbler, its juices running down their chins, their shirts, stains she’ll Borax out tomorrow. More blackberries in the field, she’ll tell them, and I’ll need your help. More berries than she knows what to do with. Not enough buckets in the whole world to hold them all.

BARBARA PRESNELL’s poetry collection, Piece Work, won the 2006 Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Prize. It was published by CSU in 2007, and in 2009-10, an adaptation by the Touring Theatre of North Carolina was performed across NC. Her poetry has been published in three award-winning chapbooks, and poems and stories appear in numerous journals and anthologies. She received North Carolina Fellowships for Writers in 2001 and 2007, and she teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.