Journal Entry: Foresight

 

Every spring,

my grandfather burned

a pasture,

 

scorched and blackened

thistle and fleabane right

to the tree line

 

where mice

and bees escaped

the slow advance

 

of low flames.

It was the end of the world

in increments,

 

the ragged

approach of a god’s wrath.

But which god

 

I couldn’t say.

The god of fescue, the god

of meadows,

 

the god of grazing?

All season long, resurrection

broke out

 

all over the field.

Later, cattle survived on this

manna, the small herd

 

my grandfather kept,

some for milk, some for meat.

I never saw

the slaughter,

the sacrifice, except when

squirrel hunting,

 

my father

made me help him

skin the creatures,

 

their gray pelts

limp on the ground. But that was

autumn, after

 

the garden’s

last harvest, tomato vines

brittle as bones,

 

corn stalks cackling

with a touch of wind.  Every day,

a little closer to firelight

 

and superstition,

I thought this was how

witches were born,

 

from the uncut

fields of corn, a spell

cast under

 

a lagging moon,

the shadows of papery leaves.

I thought

 

bad luck

was a matter of misreading signs,

first frost

 

six months

from first thunderstorm.

Wisdom and witchery

 

were the same,

honey for bee sting,

vinegar for wasp,

 

grab your earlobe

to stop the pain of a burn.

I watched

 

my grandfather

beat the fire out with a shovel,

throw buckets of water

 

to drown the embers.

I watched smoke rise

through branches

 

and leaves.

There was nothing on earth

could catch it.

 

David B. Prather is the author of We Were Birds. He served as a juror for Ohio State Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour’s anthology, I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices. He serves as a reader for Ember Chasm Review. His work has appeared in Colorado Review, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals.