Michelle Castleberry

The Fields


Delta fields in winter, blank sheets of land

waiting to be drawn with lines of timothy, cotton, rice.

The ground wears a caul of mist the color

of a sharecropper’s daughter’s hand-me-down veil.

The bowl of sky is the tint of a cataracted eye.

Visitors from tree-hemmed places, from the hills

search the long plane of horizon, past the ivory pastures

for a scrimshaw etching of tree line, a serpentine scroll

of rice levee, any place to latch their vision.

Some place to remedy the feeling of vertigo without the vertical.

It takes decades, or lifetimes, to gain the patience needed

to see so much nothing. Or the land plays a ground note

of longing under stars that throb like the singing

from the church flanked by cotton stubble.

A young girl just walked the aisle and she shakes with music

and the fear of hell. After the service, she steps out

to watch her own breath make a cloud that will rise

through the mist and get caught in the wing-draft

of ducks heading somewhere she will never see.


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