Before a bucking mule killed him,
my great-great grandfather buried his life savings
in a metal toolbox, out on the farm in the green
prairies of Missouri, near a corner hardware store
and railway crossing. Family lore says he did this
without even telling his wife before she, too,
died, unexpectedly, struck by the afternoon train.
No map kept in his wallet, no carefully penned
latitude and longitude slipped under his mattress.
His children inspected every drawer and broken floorboard
in the tin-roof farmhouse for a clue. Cousins and uncles
searched the grasslands, headlamps strapped
to their foreheads, metal detectors swung over every inch
of acreage. Decades later, we still wonder if it’s out there,
that rusted box stuffed with rolled dollars
and Indian head pennies, hidden beneath
the fireflies and lowing cows in the golden fields.
The widow sits at the table across from where
he used to sit and eat roast beef with her,
his feet touching hers. The sole
of the foot, as in solitary, the only
living person, the one everyone looks at.
Archaically speaking, an unmarried woman.
Some think the soul resides in the head.
Some think it fits snugly in the part
that loves and aches. When it escapes
does it leave a small absence? Once,
a physician determined the soul weighs
twenty-one grams—about the weight
of a hedgehog, which is about the size
of a heart. The widow at the table disagrees.
The empty place is the size of a tornado,
which is made of wind, another word
for soul. On the inside, a tornado is calm,
the opposite of everything around it.
January Pearson has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, American Journal of Poetry, The Cape Rock, Notre Dame Review, Rust + Moth, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.