An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Scarecrow

     "In a field
    I am the absence
    of field."
    — Mark Strand


    I. To Dorothy

    Everyone needs something to hang onto.
    It helps us keep the crows away.

    You cling to your journey —
    A long walk on yellow brick, two taps

    From a wizard's wand. I like to think
    Of these cornrows as a kind of maze,

    Imagine unhitching myself
    From this pole I'll never call home

    And walking through stalks to an end
    Where, like magic, someone touches me.

    II. At Picnic

    If you stand where I hang
    And keep your eyes straight,
    You will see a poplar
    At the far edge of the field. There,
    A body once swayed,
    Burning from foot to breast.
    The crows cawed
    Unmoved, their plucking a parade.
    The wind blew the odor of death
    In my direction. I had a mind
    To cry; I shut my marble eyes
    Too afraid to scare a bird.

    III. Wants to Know

    Who is my father?
    Why am I alone?

    What must this field
    Feel for the plow?

    What does the crow love
    Other than himself?

    IV. On Graduate School

    Grass for acres and trees tall,
    Then, everywhere there should be
    Some harvest to guard, sprouts
    A building in which I am mistaken
    For a broom, handled as such,
    And given to the floor. To dust.
    I am here to learn: that which fears me
    Must be crow
    In this hall of heavy doors
    Where my body is a blemish.

    V. In the Pulpit

    I am a mouthless man of straw.
    Fields of wheat wave around me.

    Oh, my God, there is so much to sing.

    I'm not dumb, but I wish I were.
    A fool bothers the Father about a brain.

    Hear us, Lord. There is too much to pray.

    I am a mouthless man made of straw.
    I hang to keep the crows away.

    The fruits they pick. The murders they make.

    When your Savior asked for water
    They gave him vinegar instead.

    Sweet Jesus, how long before you come?

    I am a mouthless man of straw.
    I hang to keep your children fed.

    The fruits they pick. The murders they make.
    Forgive us, Father, the use of our hands.

    Published in Please (Kalamazoo, Michigan: New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University, 2009).

    Published: 4 March 2010
    © 2010 Jericho Brown and Southern Spaces