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But prayer was not enough, after all, for my father.
His last two brothers died five weeks apart.
He couldn’t get to sleep, had no appetite, sat
staring. Though he prayed,
he could find no peace until he tried
to write about his brothers, tell a story
for each one: Perry’s long travail
with the steamfitters’ union, which he worked for;
and Harvey—here the handwriting changes,
he bears down—Harvey loved his children.

I discovered those few sheets of paper
as I looked through my father’s old Bible
on the morning of his funeral. The others
in the family had seen them long ago;
they had all known the story,
and they told me I had not, most probably, because
I am a writer,
and my father was embarrassed by his effort. Yet
who has seen him as I can: risen

in the middle of the night, bending over
the paper, working close
to the heart of all greatness, he is so lost.

Poem copyright ©2003 by Anhinga Press. Judson Mitcham’s most recent book of poems is A Little Salvation: Poems Old and New, Univ. of Georgia Press, 2007. Poem originally printed in This April Day, Anhinga Press, 2003; reprinted from The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, 2nd ed., Ed., Michael Simms, Autumn House Press, 2011, by permission of Judson Mitcham and the publisher.
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  • Georgia poet and novelist Judson Mitcham studied psychology as an undergraduate and earned a PhD in psychology from the University of Georgia. His elegiac poems, first-person narratives, explore family relationships, the passing of loved ones, and the Georgia landscape. His collections of poetry include Somewhere in Ecclesiastes (1991), winner of the Devins Award, This April Day (2003), and A Little Salvation: Poems Old and New (2007). 
    Mitcham is also the author of the novels The Sweet Everlasting (1996) and Sabbath Creek (2004). He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Georgia Council for the Arts and has twice won the Townsend Prize for fiction.
    Mitcham taught psychology at Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia, until his retirement. He has since taught creative writing workshops at the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Mercer University. He lives in Macon, Georgia. In 2012, the governor of Georgia...

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