Poems by Jeff Hardin
My grandfather turned a crank
that flung grass seeds out from
a 40s army jeep where he stood,
knee-steering, grinning his usual
glee. A hundred acres thirty miles
from town, a branch up one hollow,
a cave up another, deer tracks,
bounded by hills on every side.
I thought, sitting shotgun, I knew
his story, born a century ago now,
how he made money and gave it
without hesitation, ever a child
in how he marveled at a wren egg
or a leaf in an eddy, and believed
in goodness when it wasn’t there,
at least not yet, not in this person
or that one, in anyone, in everyone.
I thought I heard him whispering
a prayer out over the world, but
that was likely laughter at how
the jeep caught ruts and jostled
off course a little and then how
he almost lost his balance but
found a center and stayed upright.
My guess is that field is still green
these decades later, the kind of
tucked-back place too few find
or imagine without imagining
an empire moving out from it
but which he sowed and tended
only for the beauty of it, a silence
inside which we moved together,
contentedly, and sometimes still
do, he in his eternity, me in mine.
I call them my people, but they
belonged to hollows and hilltops,
to orchards and pews, to sandbars
and the dank entrances of caves.
They knew where quail bedded down
and to rub three leaves together
to stop a bee’s sting. Some things
we now abide they called blasphemy,
but mostly they steered clear and let
others decide for themselves. Quiet
of a morning stilled the mind, cleansed
the soul. And they talked like that—
cleansed the soul—for they believed
one day they would stand account.
They belonged to time, too, and felt
a buoyancy in it, poised like a bobber
plunked down near a tree’s fallen
crown where the water, dark green,
was scripture read with a steady eye
toward a moment lengthening into more
of itself until something seized from
underneath, and then death and life,
taut-lined, went wide-running and fierce.
Jeff Hardin is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Watermark, A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being, and No Other Kind of World. Recent and forthcoming poems appear in The Southern Review, Image, Bennington Review, The Laurel Review, Zone 3, Louisville Review, Grist, and elsewhere. He lives and teaches in TN.