The earth launched up one summer
two generations of cicadas like fireworks from the fields.
He took the kids out with sticks to the dogwoods
where they swung at the buzzing droves
& when they missed the white flowers scattered,
the petals all over the grass & in their hair
but always, he said, with one eye down the hill.
He said from time to time I turn my back
on the sun. What a wise man does is distrust his very shadow
& keep the horizon in sight, expecting always death
to rise in the shape of a man from the dirt. I remember
he ate armed & kept Stonewall saddled behind the barn.
I remember you couldn’t walk those months
without a crunch beneath your feet.
* * * * * *
Moonshiners all night along the ridge, swinging
their lanterns like cow tails. Thinking instead
of a cattle herd takes none of the edge away.
I tell you the night bears its blade in sound & sight,
the hilt itself the weight of your own body, a grain sack
across your shoulders. The crisp snap in darkness
could be the broken twig of one approaching,
or it’s a vision of her snapping pole beans
in the garden. The prickle on my back
could be what warm memory feels like, or any
number of night’s haunts hunting my head.