Lake Effect, Volume 26: "Scarecrow"


By John Sibley Williams


The crops hold tight to their rows, and this half-
man half-stuffed with straw & old newsprint hangs

all Jesus-like from a post. Clouds disband & what
we once called heaven throws down its sun like a gauntlet.

The sparrows & jays & midnight-bodied crows leave it
for dead in the hard gray wind, hunger elevated to

the kind of art that eclipses its artist’s intent. Nothing of the love
we give to things remains uneaten for long. There’s little left

of my love for words when even the corn’s simple prayers go unheard.
At least unanswered. You, for example, clothed in my father’s plaid shirt

& his father’s flat hat & all the righteous blood & ironworks sweat
passed down to me without atonement. I say sun. I say seed. I consider

my daughters one day bound to the same wood planks, stretched
to their limits like this. But this is not the poem that will save them.

No one’s fooled by the half-man straddling two worlds, ageless
despite all his aging. A deerfly enters through an opening in his burlap face

& makes a home in us. Fruit flies congregate at his feet like penitents.
When the sky yields its light tonight, bats & moths will consume the rest.

An old man will walk these long shadows trying to sink his straw hands
into our russet soil. & this time I’ll try not to join him. How beautiful

the field will be when my girls learn to eat from it without our bodies
tethered to their backs like crosses—silently, bloodlessly, begging the birds stay.