Jacob Griffin Hall
I think past the dream, think dream of passing fledglings,
think future, the balcony in the dream with a view of history like a morning-soaked field
and the row crop
and bales of hay and swollen ropes
and birds eloping
below clouds, above the crop, across the county line—
I think pine trees with their bloated cones; the cones and their needles;
the summers with bloated cones and needles
and hay bales
with children leaping
in a game of tag
and the pine trees; white hickories; burly oak and the last steps
circling the base before a felling.
Burly oak; the felling; row of magnolia and ropes wrapped on lower limbs, the lower limbs
and crescent flowers
above slick leaves in rain, slick leaves, white flowers
like a lost thought;
a thought lost below the lower limbs; climbing limbs; magnolias in a row
and petals like oblivion.
I think the railroad crossing; I think tracks; I think the past and Irwinville,
the drive south with my sister
flicking shells; I think cottage house and the dried well
alongside the interstate
and the past, think past and my dream; the past is not a dream
even if I wake some days shaking in it.
I track the conifer, conifer along the interstate, track interstate and gloss
of autumn, track the last
time that autumn tracked for me;
conifers and their branches and birds, the needles,
their fine gloss;
the birds and their gloss, tracks and the fieldtrips to Dahlonega.
Conifers in Dahlonega; cotton tracts outside Valdosta; the cottage house;
I think felling;
I think my grandparents’ neighbor who was scared of Atlanta
flicking peanut shells
over the tractor’s tire well;
passing fledglings and the felling and cotton tracts
and tobacco staining the dirt.
The cross in Cordele; the noose outside Tifton; scummy pond I swam in and the beavers
damming runoff all summer;
I think tracts and summer and beavers swimming through
a Tifton pond;
I think election night and bowls of salted popcorn;
lines around the courthouse;
tracts and Cordele and my toes testing the water between patches of pond scum.
Pond scum stuck in a tire well; Irwinville; I think Sunday school and a leatherbound bible;
think dream of the balcony;
bible’s gloss and spackled walls, white fissured ceiling tile;
leatherbound bible and light
stuck in the pages’ gloss.
Oblivion; I think sermons; history unlike a dream; think history class and Mrs. X
in a red sweater;
think future, sticky tack on the back of a conversion desk;
think history class; think white fissured ceiling tile; myth;
Jesus on the holy cross;
I think the tunnel and cross, last steps before a felling;
split vision; Jesus; billow of white rope in a tunnel.
A billow of rope in a tunnel; Atlanta; think the warehouse with barbed wire fence just north
of Sylvan Hills
and the dog yipping at the fence between geraniums;
thick red and oblivious
and hills in the distance
with familiar trees; burly oak; crescent blossoms vanishing, budding
I think ambulance siren; think steps in front of the emergency room; think ambulance
think crowd of people with wristwatches;
watching the hospital set in purple dusk; think holy cross;
park benches with deterrent rails; alcove with aluminum spikes; think spikes;
the holy cross; fieldtrips to Dahlonega.
Atlanta; pile of newspapers with the corners flicking in a breeze; track the breeze; track
the neighborhood changing
and lawyers with black briefcases
and displaced faces eating buttered corn on the sidewalk
and my grandparents’ neighbor who was scared of Atlanta; track scared
of Atlanta; hates the people in Atlanta; think neighbors in Atlanta
sprawled against the whole of human need.
Tuesday morning. I wake on the balcony from a dream like an open field; history
is not a dream;
history; think black briefcases and the faces scrawled on oblivion;
the whole of human need; oblivion;
burly oak; white hickories;
a match in a cupped hand against the wind; steam off a cup of coffee.
Think coffee; think awning; think yawning on the balcony and three eggs in a crow’s nest;
like a bandage buried in the sand
and a hawk’s wide turn above the riverbank
and glossy leaves;
October unlike a dream;
pale sky, a thundercloud verging oblivion.
Jacob Griffin Hall was raised outside of Atlanta, Ga, and lives in Columbia, Mo, where he is a Ph.D. candidate and works as poetry editor of The Missouri Review. His first collection of poems, Burial Machine, was selected as the winner of the 2021 Backlash Best Book Award and is forthcoming with Backlash Press. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, New South, DIAGRAM, New Orleans Review, New Ohio Review Online, and elsewhere.