This year our cottonwoods cling
to their leaves into winter, even as I
hold to this place. Tonight the failing
light lingers last in them. A cold
wind eddies through us, turning
the trees inside-out, stirring
their leaves to a dull music,
a long sigh like so many pebbles
rolled down the sand to the sea.
I take it as homesickness, a lament
of the landlocked, the old rumor
that the salt in our blood strives
always toward some new shore.
Our oats are sown. The grackles
have come back in time to reap
this early crop, black wings tracing
a cursive over the fields I can’t
follow, some word that could save us
illegible against the red-rimmed sky.
If their journey is a circle against
the dying year, mine’s a tangent
to it, turning the furrows up and back.
T.J. McLemore was the winner of the 2016 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize at Crab Orchard Review. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Salamander, Prairie Schooner, Yemassee, Massachusetts Review, Greensboro Review, and many others. McLemore teaches writing and literature at TCU, where he also serves as an associate editor at Descant.