Rebekah Just When the Drought Was Ending
by Justin Hamm
But the best thing about Rebekah
was the way she floated always
beneath the scent of woodburn
and dusty Middle America,
her keen ranch-queen convictions
slicing deep and deeper into
the tiniest of daily miseries
with skepticism, demanding always
some proof before she’d concede
this life He pieced together for us
cell by cell with ever shakier Godfingers
contained even one malignancy.
Every bow-legged young bull rider,
every sunburnt farmer of someday
who stopped by to mend a fence
or just to offer genteel salutations
would see her backlit by sunset,
dream her into his own mother
and pray to the essence of the prairie
to do what old bones could not.
And it worked. She survived well enough
to give of herself four more seasons
among luckless kinfolk who every one
drank greedily the blood she squeezed
and felt the cracked lips of dry times less.
As long as there was some great need
into which she could empty herself
she could will the heart to continue
and none of the rules of dying applied.
But she must’ve seen that the new rain
wasn’t baptismal or meant for her restoration.
When those stormclouds finally swelled
and burst into fat miracle drumbeats
she must’ve felt the change was coming on.
Why else open the windows so wide
with no thought for the evening chill?
Why else cut a hundred wildflowers
and arrange them into fiery clusters
but pour no water into their vases?
Originally from the flatlands of central Illinois, Justin Hamm now lives near Twain territory in Missouri. He is the founding editor of the museum of americana and the author of a full-length collection of poems, Lessons in Ruin ( Aldrich Press), as well as two poetry chapbooks, Illinois, My Apologies (RockSaw Press) and The Everyday Parade/Alone With Turntable, Old Records (Crisis Chronicles Press). His poems or stories have appeared, or will soon appear, in Nimrod, The New York Quarterly, Cream City Review, Punchnel’s, Hobart, Sugar House Review, and a host of other publications. Recent work has also been selected for the Bob Dylan-themed anthology The Captain’s Tower, New Poetry from the Midwest 2014, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize from the St. Louis Poetry Center.
(The poem above first appeared in Nimrod and is included in Lessons in Ruin.)