These Tennessee Seasons


First Summer

Down-home is full in bloom;
Honeysuckle ringlets tightly bind
the barbed wire and locust posts,
and all the broad leaves that line Gravely Road
are layered with red clay dust
because this is the summer of apple orchards
and poke suppers and a particular coolness
down in the holler—beyond the glow
   of Lee School's windows.

Early Autumn

Pressure cooker sputters and rattles
filling the little kitchen with roas'n-ear steam
dripping down the walls as Mother sets
a warm tea pitcher out on the table.

Johnny closes his recital piece and returns
to his moon base. Screen door slams; voices
arise fresh as smoldering leaves. Sondra heads
to the piano bench. Shirley and Diana
are laughing too hard to breathe. Daddy drops
the Times-News on the front porch and whistles
his way into the living room where the girls are
flipping pages of the Broadman Hymnal
and autumn dreams snap us to peak alertness
and all spirits soar in three-part harmony
as Daddy bequeathes the bass part:

   Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
   Thro' eternal ages let his praises ring;
   Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
   Standing on the promises of God.



The slope up Mount Ida Place is layered with snow
and the alley unfolds downhill smooth as finest silk
where no children sleigh. Dropping the curtain she returns
to her work quietly, her brush rack upright on the table,
wash water muddied gray in the jelly jar some time ago.

Across the richly textured vellum, each drying hue
strives earnestly to belong among ten thousand
earlier arriving brush strokes:

Tall reeds embrace a country fence row
laced with tiny pink and white blossoms;
innocent hills are graced with birches, oaks,
and elms emitting a yellow-green glow—
focal point, side-elevation, a country church
stands resolute with no embellishment;
its steeple rises stalwartly to the very core
of brightness—a sky stretched too thin to conceal
the sun's rays bursting through…

And now she is laying on a few silver clouds
with wet washes and all a perfect harmony…
   at last the finishing touches


The lock springs open and he spreads
apart two crude, battered historic doors
spilling light into the cavernous old store.
Over his shoulders the Holston slices slowly
out of its thawing muddy banks.
A visitation of morning fog defines
in overlapping curves of green-blue
Bays Mountain's heavy-molded shoulders.
Benches inside are heaped with copper and bronze
objects of every humble and extravagant purpose,
in sediments of lint and fine black grains of buffing wheels
and polishing compound—the craftsman has returned
to his workplace. He grabs the rigid, oily remnant
pajama-top of twenty-five years ago, and a streak of gold
ushers the first glint of today's sun across a perfectly
shiny Aladdin lamp. With smudged thumbs
   he rubs it gently as his eyes wrinkle.


    Kingsport, Tennessee
    September 1985
    on my parents' fiftieth anniversary