Take me back to homesteaders who pronounce poem & perm
The same & know neither take too well watered or weighted down.

To those who teach the difference between wahoos & no-hows
& haints & t’ain’t no body’s beast or business or property no mo’.

To endless back roads, verdant & muddy. To racing waist-deep
In fields of wildflowers & corn stalks as tall as your big brother’s crown

& Verily, I say, & because I say, so it is. To fields of blinding white &
Chiggers & bolls that burrow deep in soil richer & veined & reddened

By all those black, bruised palms’ blood. To never will I pick again. To
Melons & peanuts & as many hogs & heads of cattle as our pennies

& prayers can feed. To knowing when to slaughter & what
To keep. To knowing where to hide the blade, who not to tell. 

To Mrs. Mable’s snuff-mucked mouth & her darlin’ Ben, to
Mack & Nellie & they ol’ mule Sally’s slack back breaking wind.

To Sister Lola’s man’s astigmatism, Uncle Willis’ crossed legs
& arms belying memories of a rifle, his right hand unflinching

In salute, winning the Battle of the Bulge I never will. To Miss
Lou Mamie convulsing, then giving up the right for the wrong

Right there, finally, in the choir stand, where Grandpa Roy
& Grandma Noretha keep time at the Hammond & Console,

Ruby-throated tenor & contralto entwined across a space vast
As the two-room shanty where they will make the restless boy

Who will make me, whose hearts stopped ’fo’ I could lay on
They chests & listen. To unsteady as this fraught rhyme reaching,

Reaching, echoing the murmur they gifted him & me, they baby
Boygirl. Take me back to the original question, which enters

This room’s crooked lines long before you with your morning
Coffee or fresh blend of tinctures, teas or spirits: What must

I do to be saved from myself now? What you got to take away
This plague’s unyielding ache?
I’m nobody’s savior, Nicodemus, but

Come here. Hear them. In my dreams, these & a few others await:
Always alive, hear them rocking a stain-glassed house of pews,

Blues creaking in sync, brows & arms aloft, hands caressing
Oaken divets on the quaking boards’ floors & collicky babies’

Backs in brokenhearted girls’ arms & laps. Let us kneel, faces flat,
Fingers flexed, nostrils becking Pine-Sol to cleanse every crevice

It can reach, backs arched, conjuring bolts of holy heat
No unnatural flesh, unmoved, can stand. Come on, Jesus

Allah Amma. Anyone Listening? Take us down, down into
These plantations’ mire, believing in ussin the only way beyond through

To ours. There, Thomas’ dubious gaze will mirror mine, help us
Cross in a calm time. Rest our thorny sides in its briar patch, thatch

A home from its scrapyards’ booty, undulate real proper like, loose
Our selves in this shifty baldachin’s ready sway. I’ll go, I cried all

Those years ago. Send me. But I’m so tired, all cried out, so take
Me back to this nowhere town, where we can lay our burdens down.

Copyright © 2024 by L. Lamar Wilson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.