POETRY by Jane Hicks
Slagle's Pasture, Tennessee
By Jane Hicks | March 25, 2008Bluegrass 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.
# # #
ABOUT THE POET:
"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.
— Poetry Events
— Arts All Around: A Day Without Poetry by Barbara-lyn Morris
— Arts for Youth Spotlight: ETSU Senior Researches Japanese Poet
— Back to the main story by Rita Quillen