—for Uncle Dale

Orange-red gravel roads crisscrossed
fields where the flat farmland yielded
bales of cotton and tons of soy beans.

We planted, chopped, and picked cotton
from spring into summer through autumn
for fifty cents an hour, and on July 4th,

watched turtle races down Main Street.
We caught pollywogs, crawfish,
and bull frogs by hand as we waded

muddy ditches filled with run-off and scum.
Swatting down bumblebees in flight behind the barn,
we collected them in grandma’s Mason jars.

Down the road we explored the weedy rooms
of abandoned houses for broken treasures, the odd
bent spoon, curling calendar of a year long gone.

In the distance, derelict timber bridges
sagged into cottonmouth-infested creeks.
Between Marked Tree and Black Oak,

at the edge of Lepanto, we passed the old
bone yard where grandma, grandpa and
Uncle Darryl lay in unmarked darkness.