Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Auction of the Bonded

Perched on the edge of Kentucky,
Crescent’s grown handsome: dark hair,
spit-bug-green eyes, an ache
in wrist and eyeteeth
no axe swinging can slake.

Sowing a taste for leaving,
the whistling hiss
of his own scythe severing
his father’s sparse crop
turns him inside out.
A pocket that aches to be filled.

Calico and honey
sell slow on the frontier—
sixteenth harvest skin,
not his skin
but a waltz partner
jerking him roughly
across the boards. As his father
and older brothers turn their minds
to a new trade,
cash bounties, back room
scalps and panthers.

Crescent presses his
ear to the feathery rub
of a rough-split door,
as they agree
to sell the trading post,
parcel the land four ways
and bond him into trade.

After November’s auction
of the indentured poor,
Crescent walks to a bench
and signs papers
with a surveyor
up the National Road.

On the river ride home,
he fixes his eyes high—
palisades of bird’s-eye limestone
stacked like dusty bolts
of hazelnut homespun on a shelf.

He walks off wearing new boots
for the first time in his life,
shocked at their chafing straightness.

Strange to bend a hard thing
with his body’s will
and not the other way around;
they wear his flesh
to blood and pus
before he’s crossed into Ohio
just the same.  

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