Distillation, sestina by Joe Samuel Starnes

Way back in ear­ly times
when we hunt­ed down on Knob Creek
track­ing the claw steps of wild turkey
we cher­ished the com­pa­ny of Old Grand-Dad
and tales of his friend Jim Beam
whom he called Old Crow.

He told of the squawk of Old Crow
who had lived in ear­ly times
when he was sim­ply called Jim Beam,
drink­ing the cool waters of Knob Creek.
He told us that his Old Grand-Dad
had a thin neck like a wild turkey.

The gob­bles of the wild turkey
had enchant­ed Old Crow
and as a boy his Old Grand-Dad
woke him at ear­ly times
on the banks of Knob Creek
to tell sto­ries to the child Jim Beam.

This man Jim Beam
grew up on dreams of wild turkey
that lived on Knob Creek
unable to fly like an old crow
even the famed poults of ear­ly times.
This was the sto­ry told by Old Grand-Dad.

But some­times Old Grand-Dad
con­fused the sto­ries of Jim Beam
and the tales from ear­ly times
became ram­blings about wild turkey.
We learned it was a black bird, not Old Crow
that drowned in the shoals of Knob Creek.

We dammed up Knob Creek.
We built a pine box for Old Grand-Dad.
We bar­be­cued a gristly old crow.
Nowhere to be seen is Jim Beam
or the fat­ted wild turkey
or the lost dreams of ear­ly times.

We will nev­er know the truth about Knob Creek in ear­ly times
only jake-legged Old Grand-Dad’s lies about wild turkey
and the friend inside his head, Jim Beam a.k.a. Old Crow.

starnesJoe Samuel "Sam" Starnes was born in Alaba­ma, grew up in Geor­gia, and has lived in the North­east since 2000. New­South Books pub­lished Fall Line, his sec­ond nov­el, in 2011 (view the online book trail­er). His first nov­el, Call­ing, was pub­lished in 2005. He has had jour­nal­ism appear in The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post and var­i­ous mag­a­zines, as well as essays, short sto­ries, and poems in lit­er­ary jour­nals. www​.joe​samuel​starnes​.com

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