Issue 1:2 | Poetry | Ron Rash
How like a phonograph's groove
the whorls in these pews and walls,
and because wood absorbs sound
it is easy to believe
that every voice that ever
raised song or prayer in this church
survives in the oak, ingrained
like trunk rings that ripple out
from some long-back beginning.
A stone as soft as its name,
so soft an ax or saw could
free slabs for chimney or hearth,
though used not just for living,
chiseled by kin or neighbor,
then raised in mountain graveyards
to give new dead a last name,
and while overshadowed now
by granite and marble, still
found in those graveyards, the stones
whittled down by wind and rain,
lichen-flaked, letters erased,
although you know where names were—
the side faced east, placed that way
so the dead would some dawn wake
to a risen son who would
need no stones to know their names.
What secret beyond right measure
of salt and brown sugar?  His neighbor
believed it was how he butchered
under full moons, though others ventured
the woodshed— odor of cedar and oak
steeping pork slabs dangled from rope,
the way streaked dark seemed best to hold
a brighter flavor.  No one would know
until years later his widowed wife
found tucked back on a springhouse shelf
one dust-soaked mason jar, inside
a clear thickening like some late July
ripple of midday heat-haze distilled,
spread over winter's meat-hoard to seal
and cure, scratched on the paraffin
            Chestnut Blossom 1927
Ron Rash