HomeSouthern VoiceTobacco Farm

Tobacco Farm

by Emily McCrary

Seven years old on a dried up tobacco farm.
I am running through rows of hard-packed sod, no more tobacco to grow

since Papa Lawrence is too old but to sit alone in his house.
A few leaves sprout, no more. The worms left

with nothing. My brother is just ahead of me. A music plays
that is ancient and holy and rumbles under the gone noise

of mules’ hooves once gruffling across the clods.
CRUNCH of the coulter. SCRAPE of the share.

We claim these trails like pioneers before we have lost
our loved ones to hospitals—what falls away to the odor of rotting tobacco and worms.

We have torn our clothes on fences or on empty coops. Our denim britches bleed
indigo into our muscled clay legs and it makes a new color. We shout and whoop,

leaping between each mountain and valley, our wild
blood pumping through our ear drums, drowning out dinner calls from the house.

The earth is our skin, the blaze is our hair.
We are the fastest feet in the world, these little bones,

the answer to some disquiet prayer. The sweat on our skin will save this world.
CRACK is the cap gun in his hand. CRACK CRACK I answer back.

I kick a dusty Pepsi can into the air; my toe bleeds. He fires again, CRACK.
Flat chests bare to the world, our little nakedness all that is good;

our voice the bravery of a people who have forgotten
what it is to be blissfully drunk on time, hungrier for earth than for dinner.

Emily McCrary is a writer, editor and artist living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Outrageous Fortune, Blunderbuss, theNewerYork, The Bicycle Review, among others, and was a runner-up for the 2010 Anthony Abbott Poetry Prize. Read her previous poem “Pat” here, and follow her work at or on Twitter@emilymccrary.​

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