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MY GREAT AUNT SPEAKS OF NIGHTS IN HARDIN COUNTY
by Jeffrey C. Alfier

Preachers said God made Texas nights this dark.
That’s no comfort to girls home by themselves.
She could hear tongues and praises loud outside;
old wives, children, men of coal or lumber —
lots of folks shouting and carrying on,
given more to water-witching than prayer
come first light. It’s how folks fought loneliness.

 
Beyond the plank steeples rising in swamps,
this fur trader’s daughter spent nights alone,
her father trudging forgotten dirt trails 
impassable to anything with wheels.
Bound for some reclusive trapper’s cabin
he’d return by way of any roadhouse,
stumbling past the decay of tenant shacks.

 
She recalls those nights squinting through windows
waiting for his shadow to reemerge
soaked with rain and pelts — a feral hunter.
The last time I paid her a call, blindness
was slowly dimming her central vision.
Sometimes a stray voice makes her turn and look,
rain tapping glass like a startled stranger.

PHOTO: Jeffrey C. Alfier reads from his collection, The Wolf Yearling, at the Poetry Society of Texas Poetry and Music Festival (Midland, Texas, May 2013). Find The Wolf Yearling at Amazon.com.