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  • Tobacco Mosaic:Lexicon and The Sharecroppers
  • Davis McCombs (bio)

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"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 . . ." Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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The people are talking about budworms; they are talkingabout 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 pocketknivesand they are saying Paris Green; they speak of toppingand side-dressing; they are whistling and talkingabout 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 bottlesand they are talking about pegs, float plants and tierpoles.At the Depot Market, they say blue mold, high color;they are nodding and saying sucker dope; they are leaningon 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 cropsand turned away: it sank like a stain into the hills that night,a flash, without heat, on the dust-coated windowof 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 themalong an edge of sheering air. He thought of someonein a barn or field far away looking up to see who spoke;he thought how nothing he could ever say would matchthe sound of the undergrowth's inquietude that last nightwhen barred owls talked in the timbered sink, and he heardin 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. [End Page 59]

Davis McCombs

Davis McCombs directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arkansas. His first book, Ultima Thule, was selected by W. S. Merwin as winner of the 1999 Yale Series of Younger Poets. His second book, Dismal Rock, was chosen by Linda Gregerson as winner of the Dorset Prize in 2007.



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