By RUTHIE VOTH
Looking back, I think the first visit, for all of its awkwardness,
was my favorite-
the clearest in my mind.
The one with the watermelon, broken open to splatter on wooden boards
and dogs in constant attendance.
None of your apologies could change the fact that
your speech was more slurred by the hour;
even so, the evening was warm with laughter and conversation.
and there was a chicken on your shoulder
that we all agreed was beautiful
and two lovely little girls
always hovering just left of center stage.
You asked if I wanted to shoot your gun.
Me, the girl who finds power in ideas and words
and has never searched for thrills to feel alive — me.
Martha Stewart or Emily Post would not have
refused a kind host’s generous offer,
couldn’t see past the meaningless waste.
I worried you’d fall to your death
over the balcony railing
but your wife was not so concerned.
“He’s fallen farther than that. He used to jump out of planes.”
Still, I was only at ease when you were firmly planted in a chair.
for all of his beauty and tameness,
nobody could beat your rooster in a fight
and you’d lay money on that
The empty cans piled on your counter
as the little ones went to bed
and the older ones watched TV,
leaving five of us on a high deck under early summer stars
gathered close by the darkness outside our ring of firelight.
The night was full of our words, jumbling
over and past and into each other
and always circling back to your topic of the night
in various forms. “I’m a druid” you said,
perched on your railing over Troublesome Creek,
“God is everywhere. She’s in that tree, he’s in that rooster.”
I watched you rolling each other’s cigarettes
without being asked-
moves that echoed those of my parents and grandparents
who intentionally modeled a life of loving by serving.
And all of my years of wholesome,
left me with little to say except to argue,
“No, there was sex before the fall.
It was a gift
and Adam and Eve enjoyed it.”
It was midnight before
our collided worlds separated
and the rooster from his sleepy stance on the porch railing
watched us drive away
carrying bones for our dogs
and memories to linger like cigarette smoke
long after the initial impact.
Deep in the hills of southeastern Kentucky, Ruthie and her husband raise their four children and run a Bible camp. Sometimes, in the aftershock of the busyness, her mind clears enough to blog and write a little poetry.