By Robert Erle Barham
And when I think of home I think of silt that pooled like water around my
boots, around the farm, around crops folded into rows of caked earth—and the
heat and sweat of course—as we worked solitary tasks at a distance from one
another, plowing, planting, and watering the land again and again, with ragged
breezes sweeping by, cooling our sweat like ghosts passing through us—and the
time I sat in a deer stand at dusk across from woods with an unmarked graveyard
past a stretch of barbed wire that ran through brambles and the middle of a tree
trunk—and instead of hunting I read a story about a place haunted by phantoms
who disguised themselves as people who lived there, and it scared me enough to
climb down, the rifle useless and cumbersome slung across my back, and then
walk to my father’s stand where he was hunting with my brother, and my father
whispered why did you get down early, this is when the deer move, and we might
as well leave, and I walked beside their silhouettes moving across the dark fields,
silent but for the swish of our steps, wondering if it was really them but thinking
how comforting are even the shapes of those we know and love.
Robert Erle Barham writes essays, teaches, and lives with his family in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Art by Nick Botka, who runs the cassette tape label, StillVHS, and who snaps stills of VHS @stillvhs.