by R.T. Smith
"I'll get it directly," she'd say, meaning
soon, meaning, when I can, meaning, not
yet, be patient, the world don't turn upon
your every need and whim. Or "the dogs
will be back home directly, I reckon,"
"the preacher will be finished," "your daddy
will see to you," "supper will be laid out"--
all "directly," which never meant the straight
line between two surveyor's points or
an arrow's flight, but rather, by the curve,
the indirect, the arc of life and breath,
and she was right, and when she passed
or was passing, I could not say which,
in a patchwork quilt, the makeshift room,
the sweet hymn notes sung neighborly
the hall, she whispered, "Learn to tell
what needs doing quick as a bluesnake
and what will take the slow way, full
of care and mulling, be fair in every
dealing with beasts and people and all
else alive, and surely, my dear, He will
come for you in His good time, the way
He comes for all of us, directly."
Copyright ©2003 R.T. Smith. Original publication in the
Oxford American, July/August 2003.
T. Smith edits SHENANDOAH for Washington
and Lee University. His books include Messenger (LSU), The
Hollow Log Lounge (Illinois) and Brightwood, which
includes "Directly" and will be published by LSU
later this year.