Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Delmer

Thomas Reynolds


As a child he had large hands,
long rickety arms,
a thin mouth that rarely spoke,
and eyes like black marbles.

For a boy with so many flaws,
his hands drew all the attention,
bruised swollen knuckles,
fingers the width of cigars.

Delmer knew the power of his hands,
chopping wood or slopping hogs,
pinching flies between fingers,
holding girls who tried to run.

At fifteen they were worn and rough,
loose-skinned like an old man's.
A landscape threaded with ravines
and dirt roads leading nowhere.

Staring at them handcuffed,
after that girl broke his finger
and ran bruised to a nearby farm,
Delmer disappeared into the canyons.

On the outside he worked lumber,
cattle, anything with his hands,
gradually gaining some acceptance
among men for his steady touch.

Some days when the work is slow,
he'll show the boys how to douse,
grasp a Y-shaped willow branch
and walk it above a water pipe.

Willow branch ahead and pointing up,
Delmer paces the lumber yard alley,
until it quivers and begins to move,
plunges forward and points below.

Holding hands out for inspection,
Delmer stares with the rest,
as if they belonged to another,
or had a mind of their own.

A wart on each thumb and forefinger.
one vein that pulses with his heart,
as if the levee were ready to crack
and flood his wrist with blood.

***

Thomas Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, Midwest Poetry Review, Potpourri, Ariga, Strange Horizons, Combat, American Western Magazine, and The Pedestal Magazine.

© Thomas Reynolds

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012