Late January

It rained last night. My blood was stirred. This morning’s air was sharp and fresh and fragrant. Fog as thick as oatmeal held in the sounds and compressed the echoes. I stood outside and breathed and listened to the chickadees and titmice scold me, for being late with the bird feeder. What do these tiny balls of color and song make of me? Gift giver? The god of birds?

The ground perspired, and the sun burned through and the sky became blue-gray and I was grateful to be alive. The golden remnants of last year’s corn harvest gleamed. The cellphone tower three houses east up the highway hosted six perching turkey buzzards, huddled together at the top of the tower and waiting for the slightest exhaled breath of wind.

I walked across the road to the neighbor’s house and freed Ruby Puppy from her pen, and we romped north across the fields, Rocky Fork Creek winding just below and full of ghosts of black folk escaping from slavery. And I heard the Song of Langston: I do not need my freedom when I’m dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

I held the squirming herder dog in my arms, and I wept.

The cozy, drowsy cat on the afghan, ears pointed at my mouth. The box of breakfast cereal sans bowl and milk. The oval framed photos of Great-Grandfather Homer and Great-Grandmother Selinda hanging on the walls. A small rectangle of wood on which is etched “Mr. B.,” a gift from a former student. Indian artifacts and fossils filling shelves. This single room holds three hundred million years of animals turned to stone, twelve thousand years of stone points. A cup of cold coffee. A framed poster of “Moonlight Daring Us to Go Insane,” my second play, the story of my Grandfather Red Jones standing in church and brandishing his pistol, refusing to let mourners bury his dead, drowned baby son.

Below the bluff top, barges could be heard chugging east and west on the Mississippi.

Kestrels hovered over the field, ready to drop unannounced into a birthday party for mice. A red-tail hawk perched in the notch of the Kentucky coffee tree. The woods behind my house were being drilled by red-headed and red-shouldered and pileated woodpeckers. In the roots of trees, tiny frogs stirred in their sleep. The den of ribbon snakes in the dirt underneath my shed flicked their tongues and dreamed deeply.

Thawing January soup of drips and puddles, a murky, fecund bullion of soil and roots and bark and leaf rot, wild onions the seasoning and soon dandelions and violets and asparagus the meat. The coming sun-warmed feast, the choir awaiting the conductor.

It rained last night. My blood was stirred.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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