Today's poem is by Jane Gentry

Fall of the Year

Penniless women, their children, and ragtag
woodsmen came to Kentucky, refugees
from the stench of settlements in Virginia
and North Carolina, to claim a share of
the Iroquois meadow lands, into a forest
so shadowed that the sun lit only
its canopy, a golden roof above their heads
vulnerable as a baby's crown.

Numberless as fish, fat squirrels swam
in zigzags across the Ohio, the Licking,
the Kentucky. Buffalo ran the traces,
thousands in a herd, turning aside
only for full grown trees that stood
between them and a good salt lick.

Time doesn't move, so they are still
here: the animals, the virgin trees
the women cooking over fire or bathing
a child for burial when thaw comes,
the men scouting for meat or salt.
In this waste of paradise
A log house, now forgotten under

vinyl siding, lit by golden arches,
glows behind McDonald's, full still
of rememberers of the chance
that dropped us here where churches
metal-skinned like warehouses resound
with praises staged, amplified,
produced like television shows.

At day's end, waves of grackles
sail like runes into the wintry sky,
an undertow of birds riding the year's
outgoing tide, their voices, strange
as those in our own mouths,
repeat the story of which the name
cannot be named.

Copyright © 2017 Jane Gentry All rights reserved
from The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry
The University Press of Kentucky
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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