Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Jon Tribble: Missionary Barrel

for my father


Like a loose plank on a flatbed Ford

skittering and shimmying the bolt free,

your life has shaken out the cotton fields

in Limestone County, the burger joints

and shoe store jobs, the backroom funeral

parlor part-time hearse driver and jack-

of-all-trades’ responsibility.


Vocation. A calling to gospel and a life of works

awaits you. It descended in a butcher’s

shop in Huntsville amidst the larder

and slaughter of this carnal life, but

you embraced the blood and spirit as

the only life preserver you’ll ever cling

to in these waves of fortune washing

America clean from dustbowl Depression,

Second World War, TVA, WPA.


You’ll swim after the flotsam sinking in a decade’s river

of prosperity, self-righteous washing machines,

air conditioning, television-driven tableau

of the easy life in the shiny modern future

available today in the city and suburbs

nearest you! for low monthly payments

and friendly terms.


You and your new wife

drop your names into the barrel and wait

for the tile to fall—Des Moines—spin

the wheel again—Nashville—turn the heavy

cylinder—Omaha—once more—Nome—no,

reset and try a last time—


Little Rock.


Adrift in the steady stream of home

missionary life in a country of selective

vision—no tarpaper shacks, open ditch

runoff, half-dressed children in our

backyard—you breathe deep each day before

going under once again, surfacing with

whatever lives you grasp tight enough.


Copyright 2017 Jon Tribble


Jon Tribble

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2017 by in Poetry, Social Justice, spirituality and tagged , , , .

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