Willie’s songs were yet unsung when they lost the farm and moved halfway across Kansas to the little town where my parents lived.
The aroma of homemade bread wafted three blocks
Down to the post office where Grandpa and I
Went every other week for ten, three-cent
Stamps. The angel who helped raise me always
Baked five loaves at a time, just as she had done
For years, feeding family and farmhands who were
Working the harvest.
Grandpa, Uncle Paul, and I would set out on the
Wraparound porch on summer evenings to watch
Bats circle the bell tower of the Methodist church
Across the street, and make rooster calls at passersby.
The feather bed my great-grandparents had given them,
When their lives began together,
Always beckoned a blissful night’s sleep.
My clubhouse was an old abandoned ‘fraidy-hole
In the chicken yard with a Hudson hood roof
And Plymouth Rock chicks for club members.
Grandma loved her layers. Double yolks
Went in a special basket.
That first Mother’s Day, Grandpa and Uncle Paul
Made one final trip back to the farm for some horse tack
And a used Hesston tractor. While Grandpa
Settled some business, Paul went swimming with
Ex-schoolmates in a stock pond that doubled as a
Dippin’ hole. He got a cramp and drowned before
His friends could reach him. Paul was fifteen,
The apple of my angel’s eye.
Kevin Heaton was born in Council Grove, Kansas, and grew up in Oklahoma. He currently lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including Guernica, Rattle, Slice Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Adroit Journal, and Verse Daily. He is a Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
Edited by August Wright