Issue 4:1 I Poetry I Jane Hicks
Three Poems by Jane Hicks
Fern’s feet did not reach the floor
yet she sat in the upper level
at Pyburn School, in the shadow
of Chimney Top Mountain. Her dark
eyes measure the tree shadow, compute
the height, the formula new and impetuous
to be tried. She figures the corn in crib,
and tallies the bill at Uncle Wilbur’s store
before he can ring it in the great register.
Numbers sing and dance for her
swift and sure, they measure the world.
Exam papers tallied, she exits eighth grade,
dreams of high school ten miles down
the creek bed to the all-weather road.
She is eleven and does not know
she will not attend the school
that refuses a scrawny, underage girl
who chops corn, tops tobacco, captures
gardens in endless rows of pale green jars
until the town textile mill calls
her at eighteen to pack her bags,
walk out of the holler to become the
right hand of the plant foreman
who does not hear the song of numbers
in the bobbin whine and loom clack.
She trains his tallies, rights his orders,
moves from hairnets and brogans
to neat ledgers and spectator pumps
in the front office where numbers
march and drill to her order.
The wind cuts, my nose drips,
my fingers burn then numb,
gloves left behind in the almost April.
On my grandmother’s old land,
the new owner knows my purpose,
waves me on to the fields
spotted with new growth.
With trowel and paper sack,
I seek that dark green delicacy,
Creecy greens, Dry Land Cress,
served with vinegar and egg
to purify slow winter blood.
My grandmother’s habit urges me
out toward spring
that lies in fat buds at field’s
edge, Redbuds and Dogwoods wait
for the call of sunlight.
Though ice laces creek banks,
young frogs peep as shadows grow long,
the clouds slow down. I think
of a warm kitchen, Corn bread,
and bitter greens
cleansing my grandmother’s blood
that flows strong in me.
The Cosmic Possum Among the Exiles
on Poet’s Row at a Book Fair
A row of poets, tabled and arranged,
display our wares like the whores
of Amsterdam in their lurid shop windows,
entice eye contact, push the point
of connection, make the buyer come
closer, examine the stock, the sale.
Many avert their gaze, avoid the taint
of verse, poetic perversion of plain
language, words for sale, like peddled
affection, cheaper when bought,
not won and wooed.