Gayle Ledbetter Newby 

Those Who Have No Country

Lucy Victoria Smith to George Washington Smith, 1917



Dear George,

It is winter now, and the bones of the earth lie empty, 
uncovered by the trillium, sage and bleeding heart,
blooming lovelies when you walked away.

The barn is falling
the beams reflect our aging joints, 
our slowing hearts and clouded lungs.
Wash is sick with gout,
too much rich food, the doctors say.

I am weary with recollection.
Thoughts of my daughter buried under the oak, 
her brief and terrible union with a violent man. 
My youngest girl is living now in town, her children wild
among the drifts of cinder near the cotton mills.

The other boys are hard like Wash, 
they give no affection to their wives or girls,
They are iron and do not bend to tears
or vows, but break those who hurl against them
their innermost gifts.

Why you left, my lovely son, I know, if no one else admits.
You do not love this bitter land, this bonebreak from sun to set,
You love a forbidden sonnet or a trill of mockingbird, a painting poised
above a table filled with sunlight.

I pray the bullets in France are merciful and swift.

Gayle Ledbetter Newby has been published in the Broadkill Review, decomP, Gravel Magazine, Hiram Poetry Review, Literary Orphans, and others. Her first chapbook Once Appointed (Plan B Press) was published in the fall of 2017. Gayle has worked as a teacher, librarian, and as a social worker. She lives in Mississippi.