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Prodigal Son

By Alizabeth Leake Worley

After he let smooth the knotted calluses that rode the ridge
of his palm from slinging twine-bound hay onto the stacks
beneath the shed, then rolling the stacks to where his father
guided careful fall, over the gate and to the empty trough;
from lifting the thin handle of the ash-pail as he walked over
frozen steps, swinging it, the soot spilling over to pave the ice;
from kneading the curdled joints in his mother’s tired hands—

After he stopped humming when lifting coils of  irrigation hose
hanging on the fence post and the dragging sand-crusted tubes
between the stalks; after his voice pealed over the furnace
crowds and no longer paused as it had when he followed his
brother and father across a burnt fallen tree that trembled
with the river undercurrents, his father’s hat against his back,
the fishing rod on his warm shoulder, light as reeds’ shiver—

After riding a train in the evening with his fullest allowance,
stepping onto the asphalt road and down to a two-story hotel
where he rented the night and left before dark in silk slacks
cinched at his hips and hemmed at his roots, where he filled
the seams with coins and with tar from the street—

Before he chapped his heels and nail-beds in thirst and found a farrow
ranch to feed the swollen hogs and muck the steaming dung,
the prodigal son asks, Is it you I have forgotten Father,
                                        or the me who loved you?

About Alizabeth Leake Worley

Alizabeth Worley is a BYU Human Development major with an English minor. In addition to an English major and many theater and media arts classes, she works at the BYU writing center. Her husband, Michael, is a new attorney practicing in religious freedom and family policy litigation. Alizabeth graduates in one semester, after which she will continue writing and hopes to work in the hospital as a child life specialist.

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