Tobacco Mosaic: Lexicon and The Sharecroppers

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Tobacco Mosaic: Lexicon and The Sharecroppers

by Davis McCombs
Southern Cultures, Vol. 15, No. 1: Spring 2009

"He crouched in the shade of the barn, thinking and mumbling, and the wind ripped the words from his mouth . . ."

The people are talking about budworms; they are talking
about aphids and thrips. Under the bluff at Dismal Rock,
there where the spillway foams and simmers,
they are fishing and talking about pounds and allotments;
they are saying white burley, lugs and cutters.
Old men are whittling sticks with their pocketknives
and they are saying Paris Green; they speak of topping
and side-dressing; they are whistling and talking
about setters, plant beds and stripping rooms.
At Hedgepeths, under the shade of the Feed Mill awning,
in that place of burlap and seedbins, of metal scoops,
they are sitting on milk crates; they are drinking from bottles
and they are talking about pegs, flolat plants and tierpoles.
At the Depot Market, they say blue mold, high color;
they are nodding and saying sucker dope; they are leaning
on the counter and talking about Black Patch, high boys, flue-cured.
They are arguing about horn worms and buyouts.
They are saying come back, come back, come back.

The Sharecroppers
So many moons have risen through the fields of leaf.
So many suns have turned the rows of stobs to cover crops
and turned away: it sank like a stain into the hills that night,
a flash, without heat, on the dust-coated window
of the stripping room and the unlit barrel stove inside.
On that day of the developers and the divvying up,
he walked the farm and thought of those who labored there.
He crouched in the shade of the barn, thinking and mumbling,
and the wind ripped the words from his mouth, spun them
along an edge of sheering air. He thought of someone
in a barn or field far away looking up to see who spoke;
he thought how nothing he could ever say would match
the sound of the undergrowth’s inquietude that last night
when barred owls talked in the timbered sink, and he heard
in the call of the towhee the sound of the end of the world.

Editor’s Note: These poems were originally published in Dismal Rock and are reprinted here courtesy of the author.