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Summer/Fall 2020

Jacob's People

Stephen Scott Whitaker

Someone takes care
of basics. Shoes, winter
coats, a bare string
of Christmas lights
to float night. Further evidence,
a length of a rope
to yank a dog’s wild
throat, a fire pit.
A shovel, a rake,
they lean like drunks in a ring
of tin and milk crates.
Jerseys of a fabled high school state-run
curl on a clothesline,
eyelashes beating away
look at me, look
at me, look
at me. Hardly anyone visits
anymore. Someone left a dead mower
turned over in a tuft of grass
brightened with wild yellow
rapeseed flowering
because it can.
The old man hasn’t heed or hawed
since the plant shuttered him
and his boys, his son
and a nephew son,
soured on life.
Pulled tight over a broken window frame,
a loose flap of plastic claps
the air, applauding tomorrow
and tomorrow and tomorrow. The chimney agrees,
slowly collapsing into sleep,
a wink of pitch patched
in the ghost some storm
years back. The roof mossed and soft
with wisdom looks up
into the blue sky
and awaits a change of scenery.
A nearby pine talks to itself,
shaking its love
all over the concrete blocks
and plywood tables
next to the basketball ring
in the dust, the hoop hairless
and hung on an oak.
A tee-ball stand lays
against the doghouse,
a deflated football crushed
in the middle lays under it.
The old man has kept
things in good condition,
he thinks. A little care
and up again they rise
into capable hands, as good
as they ever were, the myth
of every old man on earth.

[Check out Stephen Scott Whitaker’s back porch interview]