Poems take us places we haven’t been before, and introduce us to new people, and sometimes they play our favorite songs on the radio while we are getting there. Jane Hicks’s poems carry us across time and into the deep woods of memory, and after reading them, we may feel that we ourselves have eaten banana pudding at communion on Pyburn Creek. Hick’s poetry first appeared in Now & Then magazine in 1987, and she went on to publish more than a dozen poems in the magazine in the years that followed. Hicks is a treasured ETSU alum, and her work is an indispensable thread in the quilt of Appalachian literature. We are delighted to share these new poems from her so early in the life of Appalachian Places. Learn more about Hicks and her work here: http://www.cosmicpossum.com/
Beneath crumbling shale banks, under low branches,
we dam Pyburn Creek. I stack pebbles along
shallows to pen crawdads my brother catches.
This spot, this shade, this creek, take up
the hottest hours before supper.
Blue mud at creek’s edge smells
primeval and decayed. Crawdads escape
pen by morning and build their mounded
flood dams. A mulberry harbors squirrels,
birds, seen but not heard over creek rush.
Sycamores green water edge. Further back
grow poplars, straight up tall, and buckeyes,
already red-leafed in August. Dogwood
berry necklaces like blood droplets in the green.
Cold, cold creek water surges and scrambles
down mountain, carries, urges,
wears stone and tree to sand and soil.
Called to supper, we bathe in a washtub
of sun warmed creek water to cleanse our mud,
afterward douse prize dahlias in a side garden.
Tick-checked and dressed, we eat home grown
bounty, then drowse in porch swings.
Buffet on flat bed wagons, congregation
fills stiff paper plates with layers of favorites.
Feasters once spread through shady cemetery
on quilts or perched on stones among their departed,
now seek picnic tables in outdoor
shelter while an acoustic trio sings praise.
Dessert comes out last, a fancy after plain fare.
Coconut, apple stack, and yellow cake
clothed in caramel crowns feast.
Chocolate, cherry, chess and lemon pies,
banana puddings, meringued in brown peaks,
weep with heat.
After country communion, congregation walks
out among stones. They stroll, stop,
chat before monuments, reconnect
lines of kinship, adjust floral displays,
check for newcomers gone to ground,
unconscious nod to songs carried on faint breeze.
Water, stone, sand and soil –
this is where we begin and end.
Jane Hicks, a native of East Tennessee, is an award-winning poet, teacher, and quilter. Her poetry appears in journals and numerous anthologies, including Southern Poetry Anthology: Contemporary Appalachia and Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee. Her first book, Blood and Bone Remember, was nominated for and won several awards. The University Press of Kentucky published her latest poetry book, Driving with the Dead, in the fall of 2014. It won the Appalachian Writers Association Poetry Book of the Year Award for books published in 2014.