—in memory of Earl R. Jones,
with much love
We kept HEMP in the gully
between the cabin
and the crude outhouse—
wooden on three sides,
burlap door on the other, a bucket inside.
Likely the heavy green boat was
worthless, except to us. Someone
stole it anyhow. Daddy built her,
named her for us: Helen . . . Elsie . . .
Michael . . . and Pam . . . HEMP. We
suggested a final e—for Earl. Daddy said,
“No!” We put her in the river
a time or two before she was gone.
I wonder if the thief loved that boat
as much as we did.
On the Fourth of July, Daddy always
lit firecrackers in his hand, seated
on the hill in front of the cabin,
throwing them hard.
We loved hearing them bang,
watching them fire the dark, exploding high
above Spring River. Perhaps the echo
of their report still rings those waters,
meandering through Oklahoma
on the way to the Grand
Lake of the Cherokees.
The cabin lies in ruins. A small patch
of concrete, poured from ready-mix and water
that Daddy and Mum carried,
bucketful at a time from the river,
and the rusty remains
of the old wood stove where Mum’s
canned beef stew
and biscuits turned brown
never tasted so good—all that remain.
Charred window shades,
perhaps falsely mistaken for junk,
once maps in the elementary
school where Paw was janitor turned hero—
giving new life to priceless treasure.
I wonder why some fool thought
a mere stranger could destroy
by setting it ablaze.
first published in Sanskrit. Won 2nd place Gold Circle Award in Open Poetry at Columbia University