Soil, poem by Joshua Michael Stewart

She needs to get rid of the revolver
wrapped in the blood-splat­tered dress
tucked under­neath her driver’s seat.
She parks the Chevy on the shoulder

of a grav­el road, the engine ticks
in the morn­ing blaze while cicadas
drone their prayers. Jere­mi­ah sings
along with the radio. She steps out

of the car with the swad­dled gun
and a wrench snug against her chest,
hops a drainage ditch, and climbs
a barbed wire fence, care­ful not to snag

her skirt. There’re hors­es fur­ther in the field.
A stal­lion rais­es his head, twitches
an ear, and then low­ers his breath
back into the dew-drenched grass.

She hollers back to her broth­er: Jere­mi­ah,
you stay. I won’t be long. He waves her off
with a fat hand through the rolled-down
win­dow, annoyed that she’s interrupting

his song. There’s a rhyth­mic swish
as she clumps deep­er into the pasture.
Grass blades stick to her wet shoes, burs
cling to her cot­ton hem. She kneels down

behind a bosk, and thinks about the man
alone in the church pew, the way doom
stretched across his face like a prairie fire
leav­ing a land­scape of despair as she raised

the revolver a ruler-length from his forehead.
She yanks tufts of tall fes­cue out of the ground,
and claws at the black earth with the wrench.
She wedges the bun­dle into the nar­row hole

and bull­dozes the dirt over the shal­low grave.
She brush­es off her knees, and wades back
to the car glint­ing in the sun. Jere­mi­ah glares
as she plops her­self behind the wheel,

and clunks the heavy door closed.
Sor­ry Jere­mi­ah, she says, nature, you know.
She cranks the engine. The Chevy backfires.
Gun­shots crack against the walls of her memory

just as they did among cathe­dral arches.
As they pull onto the road, Jere­mi­ah cranes
his neck to watch trees, clouds and horses
fall into the abyss of the side view mirror.

Joshua Michael Stew­art has had poems pub­lished in Mass­a­chu­setts Review, Eupho­ny, Rat­tle, Cold Moun­tain Review, William and Mary Review, Pedestal Mag­a­zine, Evans­ville Review and Blue­line. Pud­ding House Pub­li­ca­tions pub­lished his Chap­book Vin­tage Gray in 2007. Fin­ish­ing Line Press pub­lished his chap­book Sink Your Teeth into the Light in 2012 He lives in Ware, Mass­a­chu­setts. Vis­it him at www​.joshuamichael​stew​art​.yol​a​site​.com

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