Sundays some folks set tables with linen, damask fresh-pressed for a feast
of canned sardines & cornbread.
They’ve trained up their boys with switches & belts. On storm-nights,
a boy might fall asleep counting
barrels of oysters to shuck. One boy lies awake. On bad-wind nights he presses hands
in prayer toward Heaven: Our father who starts in heaven hallow be thy name,
thy kingdom comes, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, give us bread &
forgive us our trespassers
as we forgive those against us,
and lead us
into temptation &
deliver us from evil forever & ever amen
Bad wind blows but no rain comes: He’ll reach for cards,
locks of hair & black-eyed peas,
stowed away for times like these. The boy stops praying.
Footsteps on the stairs. Drunk-Daddy. Be a good boy
Strange fullness to the moon.
Left ear pricked red. Animal sounds.
Slave-whip, kiss the hand.
Crack you hard
Hell was loosed on bad-wind nights like this
in the Panhandle. When white boy Cebe Tate,
born just before the war, got himself seven days lost in the swamp
in search of a cow. Came out with hair gone white, bone-thin.
Said he’d been in hell. Tate’s Hell swamp is coming.
The boy lets it be done.
Wind lays down. Daddy dumbly smoking.
Steady hands the candle.
Ghost-lights flicker in the forest.
Some say it’s just swamp gas.
This boy knows he’s gone.