I was thinking, that last time I stood on the night porch, not
when they pulled me wet and squalling into a brutal winter, but
how I was named for this, forty weeks prior, their grappling
not with intention, specifically, just the fresh-sprung darkness
after a day of gray and white sheep filling the sky’s meadow,
the shadows sliding over green distance where pear and apple
had graduated blossom to leaf, and the chickadee was back,
rattling another nest, the old dog pointing the year’s first lizard, and
I was what they started in that wrought iron bed, the windows half open,
the distant four-lane whispering horizon in another tongue.
In the summer evenings on the Llano you take lawn chairs out into the side yard, away from the house and the near trees, looking west past the remains of the Odd Fellows Hall, out over the railroad tracks and the rodeo grounds, just watching the sky, a storm coming on, miles to the west where the lightning flashes in mountainous yellowing clouds. From here, the hills roll softly, the gullies disguised, scattered ranch houses huddled under the wind, and your eyes lift always to the underbelly of the sky, virga, the trailing hair of rain, wondering, hoping it might reach down at last to this thirsty land, the wheat and the cattle. Over there, there’s rain at Bracketts, then at the Powells, the Martins, then even here and now it sweeps into town and you lift your faces and let it drench you in evening prayer.
It rained in the night and I breathe in the earth’s opening as the light gathers like Easter and I can hear Laurie singing her way down the hall, door to door, the lilt I hear more often dial up Patsy Cline and others the old timers favor, but today we get On a hill far away stood that old rugged cross, the emblem of suffer’n and shame….Real cheerful, I tell her, when she reaches my room, and she just laughs out loud.
Preacher, she says, it’s Sunday, you know, and I was thinking back when we were raised Evangelical Free, how sometimes they’d ask us, what song do you want, and I’d just stand up and call out for that one – “113,” I’d shout, “1 – 1 – 3!” and I guess I was too young to know what it entailed, but it sure did fit my voice, though I don’t guess it’s one you’d choose, Preacher, if what they say bout you is even half-true, tearing up the Bible and all that.
Just the back cover, I tell her, and not often, but sometimes you gotta grab them by the throat, let’em know it’s not done, not by a long shot. It’s not all those saints dead and buried, and it’s not filling the plate when it goes by, smiling and nodding all along the aisle. There’s work to do – the poor, the sick, the afflicted. There’s crazy old preachers like me, but you sing that Knee Deep in the River again, I believe I could rise up and dance.
Easter morning and I’m toward the end of a hard-won sleep,
gone to New Orleans for yet another funeral, full of family talk
then out to the car to see if I’ve brought my bag, and there’s
my wife’s dad Jess in the night shadows lean as Indiana Jones
the time he lost his keys but laid his hands upon a chain saw
to carve a passage through,
and then in crazy logic we see him tomorrow
down by the river’s edge, declaiming Shakespeare,
onlookers appalled and amazed,
though tonight he’s helping me walk my child Fiona
back though a jungled city, pelicans snatching food off plates
to gulp and then hover like hawks, eying her as a treat
while the house is elusive the way they sometimes are –
courtyards and balconies and worrisome false steps –
but everywhere there are parrots sitting high in the wires,
great plumed cockatiels, macaws and toucans, suffused with light,
Jess telling us every dog is born of four parts –
animal mineral latex and muck –
which even Fiona knows to be false but the parrots
the parrots are true, though we can’t tell if their light
is street lamp or nimbus
as in her first book of the saints
for it is Easter after all and though tossed loose in a city
still they will prosper, and it’s morning here and now
my child asleep in her blankets,
sun seeping onto the Llano, and everyone safe at last.
George Perreault has published three books of poetry, most recently "All the Verbs for Knowing" (Black Rock Press). These poems are from a new collection tentatively titled "Bodark County" set on the Llano Estacado.