Joshua Lavender

Its dusk was like the dark dream
crossing the eyelids in a fever.
Poverty's dirty chiaroscuro.
When did I first see this starvation
of light was a soul's face, my soul
laid over a pivot of twilight?

My eyes shut fast in the dazzle
of sudden sun.  And with my kinfolk,
night lingered in pinpricked veils.
I couldn't see their work, their weeping,
only splayed fingers, how a pecan tree
seems to stretch like a body yawns.

Pecan, he's a cranky old soul.
His bark is grime and grit for eyes,
scaled roughness for a climber's pain.
His plagues number into the Egyptian:
leaf spot, heart rot,
bracket fungus, blotch, scab.

A scourge of webworms cocoons a branch
like eye-sleep—it dies.  It's hewn,
consigned to a fire.  The smoke tastes
of quinine.  Stooping to harvest pecans,
I learned nothing came as quick
as ache in the calves.  There was this too:

the catkins withered, spun to ground,
and their stains never washed away.
Each year, my family's Plymouth Champ
sank deeper in the dapple-dark.
Like Little Mama's sight, her eyes
boring back in her skull.  And now

there's my returning, always returning
to that dusk, to the glistening
that takes my eyes beneath the trees.
Somehow, strangers.  And a strange voice,
wind in the leaves—no, someone's crying.
Who is that, crying here beside me?

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