What’s Left to Call Tradition

On the winding slope from Blairsville towards Helen,
two sisters sit with wicker baskets full of peaches
and overripe apples. It’s September. The kudzu
clamors for light in the trees lining the ditches,
clouds stitching together two edges of hill-touched sky.
The sisters need water to keep their dog from panting.
The apples are starting to bruise. I’ve spent too much time
this summer unable to choose what moves me.
With all deliberate speed, the pine branch cedes its space
to the kudzu’s gradual reach. The second sister
reaches into a cooler and produces a bottle of water.
In a month, she’ll cover their backyard table
in faux rose petals and toast her sister’s newborn child.
They’ll serve ribs and peanut butter cake and wild berries.

Am I looking for justice or explanation?
That’s not the right question to ask. I’m looking out a window
towards the unmarked site of a massacre. I’m looking
at my neighbor hanging beach towels in an orderly row,
folded over the porch railing. I’m watching wasps compete
with orange-breasted robins in the branches of a tree
I can’t identify. My mouth is dry and the sun is full heat
between the clouds and my mom is calling again.
Between Blairsville and Helen, two sisters smile
at the passing cars. One holds up a peach.
One holds up an apple.

Jacob Griffin Hall was raised outside of Atlanta, Ga and lives in Columbia, Mo, where he works as poetry editor for The Missouri Review. His first collection of poetry, Burial Machine, won the 2021 Backlash Best Book Award and is available with Backlash Press. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, New Ohio Review, Bennington Review, DIAGRAM, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere.

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