His Ways



In winter when the leaves were down
you could hear the highway from his porch.
“They’re out there, running all night long;”
his hat brim followed the wag of his head
as he tapped tobacco to the creased white square
with hands like gloves, the color of dirt.

His ways are doomed. We both know that.
Who will clear a field with a cross-cut saw
or open a row behind a mule-drawn plow?
He’s been in his trees since cold set in,
balanced on a ladder with his pruning shears,
in company with no one but the wind and crows.

“Not have no wrecks;” his hand is raised in blessing,
his grin a weathered fencerow of leaning posts.
A flame quickens and he breathes to life
a tiny fire that glows before his eyes,
and as I make my way to the roar beyond the trees
the cinder dims, then brightens in my rearview,
like the pulse of a star that must some day burn out.


Over her 40 years as a teacher in rural Alexander County, North Carolina, Janet Ford‘s neighbors have shared with her the stories of their lives, involving details of life on the self-sufficient farms of the early 20th century. She is presently writing poetry from the narratives she has collected, and it is her neighbors’ voices that speak through these poems.

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