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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Curving of the Corn

New Madrid earthquake quickens
his mama’s pangs.

The baby’s uncle proclaims the tremor
the work of a Shawnee’s
flat-footed stomp;
the father names it
the Lord’s wrath
rattling the tares loose from
the earth’s embrace.

When the midwife trots in
along the bow of the river,

the white behind
the mother’s green eye
is softly mottled with bloodshot capillaries
like a rooster’s marked egg—
her brain quakes in a brittle
shale of skullcap.

The midwife studies the woman;
wrists and ankles
swollen purple
and rash-pimpled skin
splitting at the crevices
like rotten melon rind

and she leaves off
her homespun conceits of mercy.

No opened scissors
are snugged
under the rope webbing
of the blankets
to cut the pain,
nor swallow’s
dirt-daubed tea funneled
into the mother’s mouth.

She commends the pair of them
to providence—
saying you will be delivered
of a child
or to your reward
by moonrise.

The older brothers
are shuttled out to the corncrib
to wait in silence
as the earth opens,
the Mississippi changes its course
and delivers the child
to the cramped cradle—

34°10’43”N 82°22’45”W.

Sixth and last
of a rattling line,
his mama rasps his name, William,
five times overridden
and finally earned
but soon eclipsed

when the baby’s brothers peek
at his face through the blanket fold.
The oldest and cleverest
pronounces him Crescent—

flag’s heraldry for the youngest son.

Bound tight
upon the slim scythe
of rich land puckered
between the Salundy and Corn Creek.

The baby’s waxen,
fat-banded arms
already bent
on worrying the muslin free.  

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