I can hear Levon singing Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! just as clear as the land curves into cropping fields, gold mirrors of water, the late-coming shadows over hills, smell of pine, as if his lungs were earth-made organ pipes, and if you lift these stones, it might come again. That sound—it must have been the creak of my father’s voice, its stony ledge, as if to say he was wise-enough. He too was of the land. You must learn that edge from the rough. I can hear Levon singing Glory, Glory,how kind he was to strangers, how he heard the cool resounding, unknown verse of the dirt-poor, the out-of-luck, the loveless, and the work-no-more though they had no epitaph. I can hear his voice cracking out of the gravestones, distilled tension in lifeless bones. My father tilted his head, hummed a song when he swept, shined a floor, and I could hear the music in the work, the howl lifted out of the body, a track beaten so hard it shimmers. And the funky-brass geese fly keeping time when we’re gone.
Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Spillway, Crab Orchard Review, and Prairie Schooner. His first chapbook, The Knife Collector, was published in 2013, and he is an associate editor for The Good Works Review. He is also librettist for three of Atlanta composer Michael Kurth’s scores, one of which the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra premiered in March 2018. Jesse teaches high school English in Atlanta where he lives with his wife and son.