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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

            eating peanuts

            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;

                        the interstate;

                        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;

                        think sermons;

                        think ties;

                                    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

                                    towards oblivion.


I think ambulance siren; think steps in front of the emergency room; think ambulance

            as luxury;

            think crowd of people with wristwatches;

            checking 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;

            I think

            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;

            think history

            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.

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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.

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