Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Story of a Small Southern Valley Town

by Joshua Martin

Here one doesn’t speak of irregularities in the valley
and so the river’s emerging underbelly isn’t addressed.
Its bedrock of bones stays whitewashed and hungry.

Behind the pulpit, there is a man speaking of
a coming and a going, how the unsaved will
soon be dropped liked dead persimmon

from the branches of a holy tree rooted
in homogenous soil, or spit out like
pokeweed, uncooked and pungent.

Enclosed between his upright mountains
is a belief in the throb of the tractor
linking his thighs, the groan of the engine

a crescendo in the serpent hiss music
of this fallen Eden. From the most righteous of their people
a call to prayer to bless this familiar
setting, with the dinner on the table

partially felled by a son’s rifle in a
rite of masculinity, mixing firepower
with absolution. Buried beneath

the floorboards of each home is a catacomb
of different tongues, a hundred years of
learning yoked to the wall, screaming for release

downwards into a hidden crawlspace where
someone’s forgotten son, a knees-to-chest
skeleton, a book still clutched in his

left hand, lays unresolved. Beneath him even deeper,
survived by a pocket of air, someone’s
hidden daughter can still see the minute

differences in the shades of the marigolds, can still
taste the immense sweetness in the fruit that has long since fallen,
who still holds a silent vigil for them all.

But then again, one doesn’t speak of irregularities in this valley.
Even the river knows that.

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