I pause at the end of the corn row, back and arms weary
from hacking at the morning glory and milk thistle
threatening the Silver Queen, the okra, the speckled limas.
My day’s work done and the barn swallows are feeding,
their adagio dance a thing of grace, blue black wings clipping back
and down, sweeping the green pasture grass, then a rising tour en l’air.
The hoe and shovel put away, the birds arc nearby,
familiar now with this evening ritual of mine
and theirs, the rote chores of our subsistence a comfortable necessity.
When I was a child, the swallows swooped toward me, frightened me.
“Ah,” my mother cooed, “it’s part of their dance. Watch. Listen.”
In the stillness, I heard the soft cusping of their feathers
as they banked close around me, as if to say,
“We’re right here, reach out your hand. Come. Join us,”
only to have them sweep away, disappearing in the shadows.
The western sky purples toward nightfall and the swallows still feed.
I lean in the solitude of the barn’s breezeway, certain I’ll hear
the whisper of my mother’s voice on their wings.
Kevin Winchester writes, teaches, and wanders around looking at things that he later writes
about. He has an MFA from Queens University, has published a novel, Sunflower Dog, a short
story collection, Everybody's Gotta Eat. Other works have appeared in Barren Magazine,
Dead Mule Society of Southern Lit, Tin House, Barrelhouse, among others. He lives in Waxhaw, NC.