The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 4 no. 2


Shelby Stephenson

Push On


And when you were, there was no one there.

Push on,
The grins, the sparks,
the fieldlarks over the rye, the stoveeyes and the hog-jowls,

And you in Beaver Dam
Lifting your heels on the wet leaves.

I see your huge hands
(You said HUG)
and we would laugh, though you cared less.
“Sat” was “sot.” “Seen” was “seed.”
You kept bills on a piece of haybale wire
In the corner of the closet: that was your desk!

The meat was in the saltbox
In the barn or hanging up
In the packhouse on nails and wires to cure:
hams and shoulders!
The link-sausage lay
On the sweetgum poles nailed to the ceiling.

The sweet
Running stream in Beaver Dam!
The forked branches below the tobacco
Beds, the breathless speech that came
After a gully-washer and we’d go to the ravine
And maybe see a turtle I’d bring up for you to clean—
The little crawfish brushing the sand
Backwards into everything long ago made graceless
And irrelevant.