By: Dylan Hopper

Gathering my rusted tin bucket
while I may, I journey down
to the sage’s manor. Old southern
gold keeps those antique bricks
afloat. Sturdy, it bobs by the heavy
presence of the pond. Evaporating
bit by bit, the moss water breathes
out, like the moist puff of my inhaler.
It provides relief from the dust
of the driveway, to crackling lungs
that ache like the elder belle’s dry cough.

“Slow down, child!” She wheezes,
and the wind carries her voice to me.
She makes magic out of a dirt road.
Helps me collect sticks and stones
to build imaginary houses. Makes
them strong. Gives them the land’s
leftovers. Plucks them out of the earth
and places them into my metal bucket.
Brings us into her home. Smiles and
takes up my little hands. Teaches me
the way of our ancestors. Traces
the branches of the family tree
carved from her grandaddy’s hands,
from my great grandaddy’s hands.
Unloads the hefty pebbles from my
pail. Curls her long fingers over their
hard bellies, soothes them
until they become round and plump
muscadines. I snatch them
up into my mouth. Gulp down two
at a time. She hacks a laugh and
it sounds like the cool south,
summer breeze. “Slow down, child.”
I cough a little and give her
a sticky smile.