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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

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Elizabeth Howard
Crossville, Tennessee, USA


River Wind

Uncle Herman and Aunt Daisy lived in a bend on the Caney Fork River in Middle Tennessee. The house had wings, breezeways, porches and chimneys. I visited every summer if I could work it into my schedule. I liked to sit on a porch with lemonade and talk to the elderly couple. They told me stories of the family, the Indians who once lived there and adventures with the river.

cumulus clouds
goldfinches flock
to the tall sunflowers
the whole garden
filling with song

I commented on the pleasure they must experience in such a wonderful place. "It ain't always like this, Missy," Uncle said. "The wind's a blessing and a curse. So's the river. You should be here when a spring storm sweeps up the river, uprooting trees, tossing limbs, ripping shingles off the house. Some years, we have tornados that do untold damage. Three years ago, one tore away most of the barn. Neighbors found pieces of it miles away. We had to do a lot of rebuilding and patching up. Then comes winter. Blizzards, ice, snow so deep the whole county is paralyzed. Not to mention the livestock. A few winters ago, five of our milk cows got snowbound and died before we could dig our way to them. Then the river flooded in the spring, and we lost most of our corn crop."

no rain in weeks
the river the lowest in decades
fish flapping and gasping
in drying puddles
the stench of death over the land

"Before white men came here," Uncle Herman said, "Indians lived in this bend. I still find arrowheads when I plow the bottomland. I'll fetch them for you to see." He rose stiffly and went inside. While he was gone, Aunt Daisy talked about her flowers, her garden, the summer canning. "I made the best peach preserves," she said. "I'll send a jar home with you."

Uncle Herman returned carrying a large box full of arrowheads, most of them still perfect. "Wow!" I said. "A museum would like to have them."

"I've promised them to my nephew Johnny," he said. "He finally got his diploma to teach history. He'll have a use for them soon as he gets a job."

river cane rustling . . .
8-year-old Johnny
in face paint and feathers
scuttled in and out
a brave on the warpath

At last it was time to go. Aunt Daisy loaded me down with jars of various jams and jellies, and Uncle Herman gave me an arrowhead for my whatnot shelf.

on a rise I looked back:
Daisy in the garden
Herman headed
toward the shining water
and the kettle of hawks

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