Given Work: A Dialogue
How do you know if you can call a place home?
Reach down and pull a grub of earth, sniff it.
And if it is right for growing, stay with it.
How should it smell?
It should recall the land you grew up with,
where you were reared.
Who taught you that?
My mother had many sons, more than yours.
All you had to do was watch her,
stay by her side —
as much as a boy could.
How many children did she have?
as many as fingers on a hand.
But she lost one.
What happened to him?
You don’t have to know, but he was a good boy.
You’ll never know someone
only by how they died.
You’ll know them because they carry through.
Does it hurt, to lose a brother?
To lose your brother when your young—
is to become a deeply-cut thing,
an animal laid-open by his sense of the world.
Both silent and writhing.
think of your hard-skinned ancestors,
rising from their earthy slumbers
for each day of their given work.
They came here first, and never left.
Somedays, all you have is your given work.
as told by T Boynton
Sticky would keep his one hand gripped to a heavy hymnal.
Where his other arm had been, he kept the sleeve pent-up
with a latch pen. Leaning from his pulpit, his matted hair
licked on his forehead through beads of worked sweat.
He’d speak of the devil’s brimstone, clear as smoke poured
out the nose of a rifle. He’d seen him in The Great War,
watching the horrible world take its turn toward oblivion.
If you listened to Stick’s sermon, the kingdom could only
be found on crude benches. In churches, raised on mountains.
—Matthew Haughton, Lexington, KY