Augury at Sunset

Yusef Komunyakaa

The albino family on the other side
of the bean field—one son black
as his father, two daughters & another
son pale as their mother—all six
hugged around an upturned cable-stool
in the backyard beneath a chinaberry.

In that four-room brick-sided house,
what did it mean to close one's eyes
& see country laughter a half mile,
how it rises up & shimmies the air
till a bullfrog answers a goatsucker
from a muddy patch of cattails?

Maybe they talked old remedies
African as their faces, saying,
If you wish a cure try a handful
of gum moss, a thimble of anise seed,
a handful of corn shucks, & steep
in a quart of rain. Drink at sunrise.

Back then thrashers wounded maypop.
The hounds barked. A crow on a fencepost
told us how to keep a cat at home
by feeding her sugar at seven o'clock
before rubbing grease on her paws
& bending her face to kiss a mirror.

Their affection thick as molasses,
the aroma of collards, green tomatoes,
chicken, cornbread, & peach ice cream
at dusk. I could hear them singing
names of the dead before they rose
to walk the night into pine woods.


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