He practiced the alphabet on your broken clods,
scraped with stick or toe until what sprouted
bore the snap-bean wit of Aesop,
unfurled like Arabian tales.
Thunderheads obscured the sun
when he shot a wild turkey and was struck
by its feather—a bronzed lightning
so beautiful he never brought down another bird.
Ploughing north, he faced the cabin—
turning south, his mother’s hill.
To the west lay a wellspring in the hazel;
east, the road to Troy.
For fourteen years, your clay absorbed
his sorrows, fed his lanky bones.
We see you in tin-types,
in the furrowed slope of his brow.
—Shari Wagner (Hamilton County)
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Spencer County, IN
This poem first appeared in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. This poem appeared in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History and won the Poems for Mr. Lincoln Contest sponsored by Brick Street poetry. Shari Wagner is the author of Evening Chore, a collection of poems, and co-writer of her father’s memoir about Somalia, A Hundred Camels. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Shenandoah, and National Wetlands Newsletter.