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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

POETRY by Jane Hicks

Jane Hicks
Jane Hicks

Slagle's Pasture, Tennessee

By Jane Hicks | March 25, 2008

Bluegrass Festival, Slagle's Pasture, Tennessee

After midnight, spotlights dimmed,

the hardy play until dawn. A shiny case

from the trunk of a Volvo joins a case

tied with twine. They resin up the same,

draw sweet notes on a long bow,

fast runs throw up white flakes

to tickle the fiddler's nose or dust

the beard of another. "Fox on the Run,"

hot and fast, working it. "Wheel Hoss"

on the mandolin of a tie-dye wandered

over from a nearby tent. A little moonshine,

some sipping whiskey, some sly weed

from a home harvested patch,

bring on the music, let it loose

to circle the campground, put paid performers

to shame, forgets politics, runs to the ridgetops,

to settle peace across the pasture.

# # #


"Slagle's Pasture" is a true story. Jane Hicks says, "I never saw such a diversity of people come together. Music is the great common denominator. I sure miss 'Seymour Possum' and those old Slagle's Pasture days!"

Hicks retired from the Sullivan County, Tennessee school system in May of 2007. She is at work on a new book of poetry and a novel based on a series of her character poems, tentatively titled Daughters of Necessity.

Hicks is a widely published poet, teacher, and quilt artist. Her book of poetry, Blood & Bone Remember (2005) won critical acclaim. It was nominated for the Weatherford Award, given by the Appalachian Studies Association, and won the Poetry Book of the Year honors given by the Appalachian Writers Association in 2006.

Her quilt art was featured in a special edition of Blue Ridge Country Magazine called "Artists of the Blue Ridge."

# # #

North Fork of the Holston, 1962

by Jane Hicks

On Sunny View Drive, we lived

at the end of the road, wide fields,

and woods stood where gravel stopped.

Up Mr. Smith's poplar topped hill,

through barbed wire, out the saddle

of a ridged hay field, ran the path to

the Holston River, green history, flowed smooth

between limestone bluffs and sycamore banks,

past the baptizing grounds, below Cloud's Ford

that led to Carter's Valley, or back upstream to

to Spear's Ferry where Daniel Boone camped,

or on up to Poor Valley where A.P. Carter

dreamed the soundtrack for an era,

downstream, the Long Island where Boone

walked with the Cherokee.

We fled the sunny view for the cool view,

our candy striped floats bobbed on cane poles

as we jogged down the path to the Holston,

my brother in front, me in the rear,

heroes caped with towels, we sought the cool

water now posted, mercury poisoned,

by Olin saltworks on the north, merges with

Eastman Chemical spill, to meet the foul

of Bemberg Rayon on the South Fork

where the Overmountain Men mustered at Watauga.

The fields now subdivided,

the gravel roads paved and marked,

McMansions to pretension line the view

of the deadly green flow.

# # #

Poor Valley Pilgrims
July 31, 1927

by Jane Hicks

July bore down like the Devil's thumb,

growling thunderheads crouched on Clinch Mountain,

queen of the meadow and ironweed

danced in dusty ditches and fencerows,

heat shimmers swam with swallowtails,

and tiny white butterflies fanned at near-dry puddles

on the rutted wagon road where black-eyed susans

gave sly winks to A.P.'s folly. He packed

a borrowed car with his wife, Baby Joe,

Little Gladys, cousin Maybelle, and a borrowed

guitar to seek fame in song. They fled

Poor Valley for Jett Gap to ford the Holston River

before rain trapped them in grease slick mud,

then twenty-six miles of gravel road hell,

the car tires in summer molt, shed twice

on the way. The desperate pilgrims

arrived jolted and rattled at sister Vergie's door,

a soggy squalling baby, his milk-wet mother,

cranky sister, a pregnant guitar player,

and a dreamer ready to score

the soundtrack for a nation.

The Carter Family and others participated in recoding sessions known as the "Big Bang of Country Music."

# # #

Thomason and Jones, General Merchandise

by Jane Hicks

After they tore down my great-uncle's store,

the footprint of the foundation seemed so small,

the house smaller, his orchard, a scrap.

The store and grounds once seemed a universe,

a cool cave of memories, red asbestos shingles,

acres of tin for the roof, wide covered porch

that held dozens of loafers on a rainy day,

Saturday morning gleaners of news and nonsense.

Mid-winter, they guarded the giant stove

that swallowed mounds of bituminous binned

out back, summer home of copperheads ,

red wasps, and giant spiders. A barber chair

gathered dust by the drink cooler,

Nehis and Royal Crowns shoulder deep

in frigid water, chest lid revealed jewel

bright bottle caps. A candy case

filled with Baby Ruth, Snickers, Mars bars,

loose candies to fill "penny pokes," our

parting treat. Near Christmas bushel boxes

held creme drops, hard ribbons, orange slice,

sugared and tart, pink and yellow bon bons for

scooping into stockings, always bon bons

for me, creme drops for my brother.

To one side, barrels of nails for horseshoes,

houses, and barn building, fence staples,

shingles, feed, seed and in spring, baby chicks,

a yellow confusion of whirs and peeps,

a show in the spotlight of the heat lamp.

Broad stairs to a mezzanine of dry goods,

fabric on bright bolts, spooled thread,

rick rack, pins, and zippers. Overalls, boots,

hats, even once, a pair of black patent

Mary Janes magically my size the Easter daddy

lay in the hospital. Around and back down

a cold case of oleo and bartered butter,

brown eggs and yards of bologna

to be thick sliced, carried home or heaped

into hearty sandwiches, round cheeses,

nd thick slab bacon. Out the back, the gray

shingled house that held dozens of mechanical

toys, some ancient, all working, that needed

to be touched, wound, and used in this house

of no children. A cool orchard with a white

bridge for foot dangling, toe swishing,

popsicle reverie, safe from all but

errant bees from hives that hummed

a fierce serenade.

# # #

The Time I Stole

by Jane Hicks

On parched summer days, my precious six weeks

of non-teacher days, my boys would not venture

into the inferno, sought the cool, knew

they were forbidden entrance to my "office"

at writing time. Toes on the threshold,

my acrobats tilted forward, bodies near parallel

to the floor, into my room of books and spells

tapped out on an old IBM Selectric, demanded

I come out and play or feed the grubby troupe.

Now, my husband, not so acrobatic or trainable,

stampedes through my poems, my mother rings

and rings, leaves no message until I pick up

and speak. On workdays, among graded papers,

and monthly federal reports, nothing is amiss

if I write at my desk while students wander the maze

of the paragraph. A principal once commended

this modeling of desired behavior. It was time I stole,

a string of words heard at a faculty meeting,

that troubled and tangled my concentration,

if not tied to the paper with haste.

# # #


Meet the poets featured in the April issue of A! MAGAZINE FOR THE ARTS and read their poetry by following the links below:

Felicia Mitchell
Delilah O'Haynes
Neva Bryan
Rees Shearer
Gretchen McCroskey
Benjamin Dugger
Warren Meredith Harris
David Winship
Henry McCarthy
Lena Cantrell McNicholas
Samuel Miller, M.D.
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