Lightning bugs prick the darkness,
rising from a soft fall.
Jude and Cora cup their hands
over the bugs, peering between their thumbs.
The yellow lights pulse,
little stars in their sky-dark hands.
My wife’s Mawmaw pulls a cigarette
down to the filter, drowning the nub
in the morning’s dregs of coffee.
Dogs collapsed into commas at her feet.

The logwoods get men money
in their pockets. The cash comes in thick
sticky stacks that the men peel apart.
Even the best have stories of trees
awakening at the saws’ final cut,
electrified, leaping from the stump.
Their many arms outstretched,
grabbing on their way down.
Trunks snapping men’s limbs,
splitting their skulls into kindling
perfect for the stove.

We laugh around the table,
food mounded like a church covered-dish
on Mawmaw and Pawpaw’s kitchen counters.
Double-third cousins,
a kin that sounds worse than it is.
Mawmaw says they’re no more inbred
than anyone else this far out.
The holler is a hard place to love
and a harder place to leave.

The moonshine stills that dripped
blindingly clear liquid
have evaporated from the woods.
The old men who ran them
either eaten by cancer
or drown by drink.
Now cousins duct-tape the trailer’s
bedroom door shut to cook meth
so that the fumes won’t
slither around the babies
who sleep where they fall
like dropped dolls.

We waded into the family’s creek.
Our children flipped rocks,
looking for crawdads, the brown bodies
dotted like the creek floor.
I limped into the cold sting of water,
my feet tender on the rocky creek bed.
It took ten rocks,
but I found a crawdad,
more insect than meal.
The claws waving,
clamping the base of my thumb.
Our children already lining a bucket
with their captives.

Ty Stumpf