NathanPoole1An interview with alum Nathan Poole (fiction, ’11) conducted by alum Rolf Yngve (fiction, ’12) appears at Fiction Writers Review:

Rolf Yngve: Nathan, congratulations on all your successes, and even more, congratulations for this wonderful collection, Father Brother Keeper. We’ll talk about the stories, but something came up in the author’s notes that I thought might kick us off—you call yourself an amateur dendrologist and theologian. Tell me about that. Or, what I want to ask really, where would you rather start, with the dendrologist’s interest in hardwoods or as the student of Job? I feel like I should have the King James Bible and The Field Guide to North American Trees and Shrubs next to me when I read your stories.

Nathan Poole: Ha! Well, I guess they could both be considered field guides, in their own way. I can’t choose which to start with. This is so funny. I walk around all day fantasying about being asked this exact question and when someone actually asks me, I feel totally speechless, like Charlie Brown trying to spell beagle.

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We are also pleased to present an excerpt from Nathan’s novella, “Pathkiller as the Holy Ghost”:

Decima was an aunt before she was born, the youngest of fourteen brothers and sisters. Her older siblings, men and women she hardly knew, lived all over Burke County with their husbands and wives. She would often meet new kids at her school or new playmates in the church yard, only to find out later they were her nieces and nephews. “I see you’ve met your Aunt Decima,” their mother might say, Dessie turning a bright shade of red, as if it were a scandal. There was a creek path that ran beneath the hardwoods that bordered the back pasture behind her house. When there was cotton in the late summer it meant the heat had established itself and that the path would be trafficked by migrant pickers and sharecroppers because of the shade, cutting back between the ferry where it crossed the Savannah into Georgia, down across Claxton-Lively road to highway 23. The men moved down the hill and out toward the road in the valley, appearing where the trees opened up and disappearing just as suddenly as they turned back to follow the stream.

She could not remember a time when men did not walk that path in the picking season, men and young boys, carrying their own sacks and passing like ghosts, never coming up to the house to visit, never asking for anything, all except once.

The youngest of fourteen children, the unmarried daughter, saving for secretary school in Augusta, sweeping the yard. As if a cold breeze had blown, her skin prickled and she knew a man was there, watching her. A presence lingered over every object in the yard, causing the garden to look disheveled and poorly tended, causing her body to feel as though it were jointed with soft wire, ready to be manipulated into poses like game birds stuffed and roosted along the windowsills inside the lawyer’s office in Waynesboro, their eyes painted in vivid red and gold.

She turned and found him leaning against a tree as if he were waiting for his bus to come, as if he had nothing to do and nowhere to go. He seemed both young and old at once, young in his expression but somewhat primeval in his features. His shirt was clean and looked cool against his dark skin. He was not a migrant worker, at least not one who had done much work. She went back to her chores and when she looked up again he was there still, leaning and watching her as if he owned the place.

She stared back at him. He tipped his hat at her and still she glared and stood motionless, her shoulders back, the broom under the palm of her right hand.

“You can keep on sweeping,” he yelled. “I’m just getting my breath.”

She did not move a muscle. Her body felt tight, the skin of a drum.

“You deaf?” he asked.

She saw him approaching her, saw him walk right up to her in the yard. She was paralyzed by his attention, her blood knocking. “You got folks home?” he said, his mouth twisting upward into a little smile. “I’ve seen you before, I think. You ever seen me?”

“No,” she said.

“Sure you have,” he said. “I walk this path everyday nearly.”

“Where you going then?” she said. “You’re gonna be late.”

“No,” he said, “I’m only ever on time.” He licked his lips and tipped his hat to her.

“I’ll come by again, and you can invite me in, now that we’re acquainted.”

The green of the trees across from the garden seemed to vibrate. She felt empty and calm, powerful like a statue. She turned to look at him, turned to face him, but he was gone, and it was unclear how much time had passed. She went to the creek path and looked down at his boot prints and leaned against the tree where he had leaned and looked back at the yard and the house to see what it looked like. In the distance, a curtain of rain covered the road and then swung across the fields. The road was steaming and the rain pocked the soft dirt of the yard and she knew her father would sleep well listening to the rain.

You can purchase a copy of Nathan’s novella here:\

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