by Jennifer Davis Michael

Poppies, the bloody fruit of war, recall
the grandfather I never met.
The war he fought no one remembers now
—at least, not we Americans, 
who reached the trenches fashionably late.

He served in France one bitter winter
and came home broken. No one knows
exactly why, shell-shock or gas,
but he stumbled home to Mississippi,
married well, and started writing books
about the swamps and sharecroppers he knew.

Cotton, not poppies, blossomed in his pages.
Whatever he witnessed in that other field
stayed buried. In a sepia photograph
he sits in profile on the sloping edge
of the bed, gripping the post, as though
about to haul himself upright,

a cigarette his mouth’s sole utterance,
his gaze on something only he can see.

Jennifer Davis Michael is a professor of English at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Her publications include two chapbooks, Let Me Let Go (Finishing Line Press, 2020), and Dubious Breath, forthcoming in 2022. Her poem "Forty Trochees" won the Frost Farm Prize in 2020, judged by Rachel Hadas. Other work has appeared in such journals as Think, NELLE, and Southern Poetry Review.