I know they wake early
to feed the dogs, put the coffee on,
get ready for the chores
whether there are cows still
in the barn or even if the structure
that holds equipment is empty now,
the hill wind winding through it a bit
depending on the direction it comes.
When they open the door to the day,
dark greets them like a friend.
I know the banked warmth
of their bodies as they walk out
to the truck now that winter
has come and the heat is on,
wood is stacked against the house.
They test the wind’s direction,
tip of a finger held up, wetted.
But somewhere there is fear, too.
It grips them inside. Their hearts
tense there in the early blue.
I know they think their guns will help,
their wives, kids, too. The dogs outside
who bay to be fed, bay when it’s time
to head out to track coyote, hunt.
But the restlessness does not abate.
Not with whiskey or beer or sleep.
Somewhere back in time, they heard
those hymns the grandparents sang
holding firm to the wooden pew. They
were too little to understand the verses.
I know the words come back now. They
drive the winding roads, past gas rigs,
past water trucks plowing steady down
the narrow blacktop roads. They want
to know Jericho, the promised land.
They want to cross the Jordan River
too before they die. They want God
to not forget them, while they are
already forgettable. And they know
this. Know it is already too late.
Ellen Stone co-hosts Skazat! and advises Community High School’s poetry club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her collections are What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013. Ellen’s poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best of the Net.