A Whole Fallen World
I have a cardboard cutout of Jesus taped
to the wall behind my desk. He’s got his right index
finger raised, gesturing that I follow
him, but to where, I wonder? Maybe some Esso
station on the Southside of Virginia, circa
1959 where we’ve stopped for treats after
long hours at Sunday School and church.
I’d get a Pepsi and a chocolate moon pie,
a sugar feast that made all the hymn singing
fade into a cocoon of sleepy dullness. Sugar
high, then the doldrums afterwards
when I’d watch the woods rush by, the fields
with cows behind barbed wire fences, the occasional
farmhouse that needed a coat of paint, the barn door
advertising Red Man, the backyard wells, the rusty pumps,
the water that tasted like iron, the oak trees not yet red with autumn,
the crows flying across the rows of corn and tobacco,
the futile scarecrow dressed in Grandpa’s clothes, emperor
of a world that was so alive then, rich with the meaning of grains
and grasses, of apple trees in orchards that
held the entire sweetness of summer.
Jesus. A whole fallen world sparkling in my rearview
mirror, but living carries us in one direction past
the mailboxes and barbed wire fences, past the kudzu
and honeysuckle, way past a time when we were
loved by aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents,
and the limitless cousins who took their first steps
on linoleum floors as we watched with the kind of tenderness
we’ve lost and miss so much, but have never forgotten.
by Jesse Millner
Editor’s Note: This poem’s nostalgic imagery underscores the regret and loss that comes with age, though always decorated with an edge of remembered joy.