December 9, 2003

Consider an invitation to hear your great-grandfather,
a face symbolic of the work ethic of his generation,
loose-ribbed sweater over canvas coveralls,
holding a hood with goggles in readiness
for chemical warfare as a farmer would a prized hen.
That was his recoil from an aggressive world
resting indefatigably on his shoulders and tall brow,
not the artistry that he used as bridge to outsiders,
his way with words metered out through
a mouthpiece in a club with a rhythm section.
Just listen first to the clink of glass on tabletops,
muted orange ashes smashed into square trays,
swells of conversations like the tide against a pier,
improvised waves lulling each head in the room
into a community of personal melancholy.
Most likely you are yearning to take a peek
at the last performance of his short career,
his stare clouds over in the manner of a mystic
streaming infinitely toward the consciousness
of his future creations and their derivatives.

When Jim Heston, BA '94, received several photographs of his great-grandfather, Newton Hill, whom he'd never met, he became fascinated with the man and his story. Heston first painted pictures of his ancestor, and then wrote the poem above. A teacher in the Waco Independent School District since 1996, Heston edited a literary magazine while at Baylor and is a published poet.