Susannah Habecker © 2009 All Rights Reserved
Breaks in cloud frame where the river flows south west, pass over
Abrahamís far field, where autumn wheat is tall enough
to catch and bow in a concert of wind.
I know it is warm where a family is gathered in sun along the riverís edge.
My house is near
on the edge of North Liberty. Naked with their small boy and girl,
this family are strangers to me. Like a Baptist,
colour of dried oak bark and thin, the father leads his son,
I think he is seven or eight and is more the colour of this river,
into water waist deep. Thin too and pretty, the mother carries her youngest
to where a small body can stand, where
current will not carry her away. I tuck myself in tall stalks of wild cardinals
and milkweed near enough to hear the mother say Jesus!
Laughs as she says again, Jesus. Sky now wide and blue,
the mother squats down, brings water
to her daughterís shoulder, the same cherry wood colour of her mother.
I can see the childís body shiver from here, There, there sweetness, her
mother says, now water brought to her chest, now over her thick black hair.
Playful, the boy jumps up and down, hollers like it is the end of the world, so much the
colour of river he almost disappears. They have had enough and
all go to where their clothes are bundled, where the car is parked in high grass.
I do not know where they will go now. I know the Abrahams
will soon harvest their late wheat and after winter will not work the land. I will go home
and not tell Clare what I have seen. I will tell her it will be an early winter. Late tonight,
maybe tomorrow, I will phone my father, ask about the cancer, and tell him of this
coloured family naked in dirty water. He will ask why I hid.
He will give his ideas of where they have come from. Protesters from Madison, he will say,
People who do not love this country. Tomorrow,
I will come back here, gather a bunch of cardinals and take them to my motherís grave.
I will sit there for a while alone. Soon I will return to my unit
my boys, my duty, a world away from here,
to where my life is now, a place
I do not want to be and do what harm I must to come home.
Albert Baker has lived in England for 15 years most of which was in London, returning to the U.S. in the year 2000. In 1995 chapbook Sound of Wings was published by Slow Dancer Press in the UK. Albert has read at literary festivals throughout the U.K. In 1992 he was published as part of a collection of three poets which included Welsh poet David M. Lambert and Irish poet Richard Tyrell entitled Happy Hour Conversation by Satori Press. Albert currently lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California.
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