A Spell of Patches by Paul Bone

Most place its origin when the high school running back, with a likely future of theft and marijuana, sat two hours one night with his grandmother’s needle, thread, and thimble to fix the Harley-Davidson eagle across the shoulder blades of his denim jacket. He took a handoff at the next home game and at the 30-yard line on a slant play his wings unfolded, threw off shoulder pads and jersey, and lifted him above the field, the dumbstruck fans, and the marching band. He flew away in the chill October air. Thereafter the infection, affliction (it went by many names) was widespread yet selective, like rapture. The Tarot pack was dominant, due in part to the landscape there. The town was small and brown, the river that hemmed it in a tributary in a larger watershed. But the fields around flooded annually, and heat shimmered above the peeling soil, whether dry or humid out, as if some archaic design were being forged. Egrets and cranes flew over the level plain. It put one in mind of a lower Egypt or Indus Valley. The Tarot pack, then, with its suggestive and mysterious allure, was an attractive set of images, even if people did not know exactly why. Soon citizens were hanging upside down from trees or donning robes for long walks down the river bottoms with staff and lantern, for many, like the running back, had transformed into the very images they’d sewn onto their trousers and blouses—the hermit, the magician, and the hanged man being sought-after ranks. And then transformation was ruled by character alone. Red-faced coaches who’d bullied sixth-grade  grade shortstops grew enormous green claws or curved horns and stomped and snorted in the enclosed ball fields the city fathers voted to leave as pasture. The timothy and heather almost hid the roaming herds of Minos splashed with blood. In other ways the spell was mindless, lacking any sense of justice. Thin-necked lawyers and accountants shrank into ever more diminutive versions of old-time presidents honored for words rather more than strength and who were rendered into stamp-sized patches these attorneys and actuaries expertly sewed to the undersides of their cuffs, a kind of clerkish, sub rosa protest. Patience, they seemed to say to each other. Wait for the sign.

Paul Bone is the author of the poetry collection Nostalgia for Sacrifice. He has published poems in The Hopkins Review, The Sycamore Review, The Birmingham Poetry Review, Think, Cherry Tree, The Southern Poetry Review, Peacock Journal, and others. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Evansville and is Co-Editor of Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry and Measure Press.