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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections
 "In a field
I am the absence
of field."
— Mark Strand


I. To Dorothy

Everyone needs something to hang onto.
It helps us keep the crows away.

You cling to your journey —
A long walk on yellow brick, two taps

From a wizard's wand. I like to think
Of these cornrows as a kind of maze,

Imagine unhitching myself
From this pole I'll never call home

And walking through stalks to an end
Where, like magic, someone touches me.

II. At Picnic

If you stand where I hang
And keep your eyes straight,
You will see a poplar
At the far edge of the field. There,
A body once swayed,
Burning from foot to breast.
The crows cawed
Unmoved, their plucking a parade.
The wind blew the odor of death
In my direction. I had a mind
To cry; I shut my marble eyes
Too afraid to scare a bird.

III. Wants to Know

Who is my father?
Why am I alone?

What must this field
Feel for the plow?

What does the crow love
Other than himself?

IV. On Graduate School

Grass for acres and trees tall,
Then, everywhere there should be
Some harvest to guard, sprouts
A building in which I am mistaken
For a broom, handled as such,
And given to the floor. To dust.
I am here to learn: that which fears me
Must be crow
In this hall of heavy doors
Where my body is a blemish.

V. In the Pulpit

I am a mouthless man of straw.
Fields of wheat wave around me.

Oh, my God, there is so much to sing.

I'm not dumb, but I wish I were.
A fool bothers the Father about a brain.

Hear us, Lord. There is too much to pray.

I am a mouthless man made of straw.
I hang to keep the crows away.

The fruits they pick. The murders they make.

When your Savior asked for water
They gave him vinegar instead.

Sweet Jesus, how long before you come?

I am a mouthless man of straw.
I hang to keep your children fed.

The fruits they pick. The murders they make.
Forgive us, Father, the use of our hands.

Published in Please (Kalamazoo, Michigan: New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University, 2009).

Published: 4 March 2010
© 2010 Jericho Brown and Southern Spaces