Land of Amnesia
Joseph Bathanti

I swear, given even this much
of a fool's chance, at the end
I'd beg to cross one last time
the Rocky River into Anson County.

I'd ask you to come;
and if you'd so consent,
I'd foreswear tobacco and shun drink.
But the bill of sale

this time would be forever.
No last minute dickering over the route,
no trips to the conjure woman
like Lot's lying wife.

I'll not have you looking back.
We'll hold Jesus to his writ
promise of forgiveness –
not in such tongue as folks might reckon,

but signs, bodement:
two nights of bloody sun
over All Souls Church,
shades in the vesture of deer,

your hand in mine atop Lord Anson's Bible.
Over Cedar Hill and Pinkston
we'll shin the tar roads and foxtrots,
critter-quit but for snakes in oatgrass.

Even a mincing moon off cotton will yield
light enough to walk by.
In the morning I'll be there
with sweet milk. We'll watch the sun

break out of the crop-shroud
like a borning baby, lustering the brake,
wild banshee turkeys sailing out of it.
If we make Brownie's trailer by lunch,

he'll put us up something: 
Field peas and hoecakes, blueberry honey.
From His firmament the Lord will fix us
in the cross-hairs of His holy roads,

109 and 1634,
Big Davis on the shoulder,
black as old roadbed,
hitching into Wadesboro

for a drink of wine at the shothouse;
a game of nine-ball clacking
out the open door of Deese's speakeasy,
two mulecarts and a pickup with a tethered

Bluetick chocked in the gravel.
From here,
it's not but a mile and half to the infallen
arsoned house, where we first whelped.

But you are bound to be frighted.
It gets fen and swampy.
River runs under this murmurry ground.
You can smell the charred heart-pine,

turpentine what boiled out in the fire, pitch
so fast and instant bird-flocks that lit there
singing still roost by their petrified bones.
Nailed across the door is a whiffletree.

Mrs. Little's thorns still thrive.
The old bay, Star, dead two decades,
canters in the pasture.
Cotton fetches two bits a bale.

In the sky dart lights of other craft. 
There's no one we can tell about this,
no one who would ever allow it.
Behind us pitches the crazed compass needle,

our lives of other counties long forgotten,
burnt up like hair-locks in a candle.
It is here, my best beloved,
we'll build on ruin.

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