Tender Is the Night

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Tender Is the Night

The fall corn fields always
had the crisp moon for their heavy

ears and dry stalks to under
hang, and bright tobacco—topped

and suckered—had the humid sun
to pull the tar from its

green leaves. But overalled boys
in South Georgia held title

to nothing but kerosene to fill
their dogtrots with light

in the 1940s, until trucks
and men made good on Roosevelt’s

REA and hauled in the long
creosote poles, day after day,

dug holes, and hoisted the wires
and crosses like Good Friday

soldiers clear-cutting
right-of-ways to sunrise service

on Easter morn. Then the after-
noon bus rides filled

with bets about whose house
was next, until it was yours,

and the porch light glowed with power,
and night could not come

fast enough, and you stood bare-
foot in the hard, dark yard

with toads and chickens, watching
your new life pour from

windows and clapboard chinks,
thinking, Somewhere inside

I will always be
the person I am tonight.

All the Teaming Herds

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All the Teaming Herds

My grandfather, Russell Jackson
Smith turned 133 this year—

he’s dead, of course, but still
so young by cosmic standards.

For example, the farther we look
into the universe we find

light so old it makes us shiver
with the cold thrill of space,

much like Hubble felt in 1922
on top of Mount Wilson

observing the pulse of Andromeda’s
Cepheid Variables, proving

what seemed nebulous was not
and no part of our own

Milky Way. The world is big,
and bigger still when we leave,

as my grandfather did
April 1st of ’48, standing

by the washed-out bridge
over Lost Creek, wondering

about his fields and crops,
remarking how the bream

were teaming in bright-scaled
herds through the opaque

waters when the vessel burst
in his head like a failing star.