Hollis Creek
James A. Jordan

         for Paul Walker (1909-2006)

Where they pulled him from the mossy bottom
on a hot day (as all June days in Tennessee’s
Black Patch tend to be) they had no name
for him, having spent the better part
of nine months tending to more pressing matters—
Night Riders, tobacco harvests, plantings,
four children under ten—and so spent
the next five years calling him Bess and Baby
before an itinerant preacher named him Paul.

Where they pulled him from the mossy bottom
of Hollis Creek, water rushed towards Sycamore,
The Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio,
Mississippi, through New Orleans—traveling
farther than he ever would in the near
century he worked land, raised Polled Herefords,
wrote poems, constructed models of churches,
farms, from scrap wood and memory.

Where they pulled him from the mossy bottom,
a paved drive now leads to bloated
cookie-cutter houses on the hillside
where he, my grandfather, hung countless
racks of burley, dark fire, one-sucker,
before sitting back to watch the smoke rise
from barns, which to him must have seemed
as permanent as the American
chestnuts that surrounded him.

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