– Davis McCombs
In certain parts of Kentucky’s cave country it is possible to drop a buoyant object in a sinkhole and then retrieve it, often hours later, when it floats up in a bluehole spring. A watermelon, for instance, after having traveled the length some underground stream, emerges chilled to a cool 54 degrees.
Once there was a boy; and once, the sun a tarnished silver plate
between the polebean vines, he led her under barbed wire
and down a ditch to a tar-black smear that gave back nothing
but their own hearts pumping. This is a song of gravel dust
and fescue, of balance won, and a metal culvert’s stagnant slubs.
This is a music of the heart’s solidity. He showed her how
to thump the rind, their faces shadowed on its lightning stripes.
He showed her how a shirt, untucked, can make a basket
for lugging a burden down a red clay wash. Sixty years, the sun
still askew above the hill, and now she carries only the song,
but the boy is inside it, and the melon, too, and when she follows
its sequence of familiar notes along that weedless rut
she finds two bicycles propped at the head of a path angling
down mud and hoof prints to a knob of water blossoming
and blossoming, she finds the white perch drumming its tendons
by the undercut silt bank, finds the stream’s clear discharge,
how it nudged the river’s muddle, and they waited, the cold interior
of that music she would not yet hum nor carry, coming numbly
among facets. She follows the song where it leads: past
the striped and oblate orb that wavered into focus there
below the ledge, over the black seeds in a half-moon on the sand,
and to the grave in which, come that winter, the boy would lie.
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