At Howard's House

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Rusted tin roof on a

Weathered wood frame house

Unfinished pine, the color of asphalt

Cracks so wide between the porch floor boards

You can see the bare ground beneath

A pot-bellied stove is stoked in the front room

Warming your hands and slow cooking

Dry lima beans in a seasoned-black

Dutch oven

After dark we sit on the front porch in

Old wicker-back rocking chairs

Drinking Jack Daniels from mason jars

As we speak, warm whiskey mist escapes

Into winter darkness and mixes with

Chilled wind and drizzling rain—

And though we would be warmer inside by the stove,

We let the conversation die, and listen—

Tonight all that is Southern speaks

The sporadic, yet rhythmic beat of

Collective rain drops on the tin roof

Fallen from red oak branches that dance above

Whistling in the late autumn wind

The season’s voice resounds like a distant Dolbro guitar

Accompanied by deep cold thunder

And though we never identify the sound

Or discuss the finer points of content,

We listen quietly—

We hear and understand


copyright 1999, M. W. Anderson