Paul Smith: Bye & Bye

Library of Congress: Frances Benjamin Johnston photography

Bye & Bye

We sang a gospel song called ‘In the Sweet Bye and Bye’
It was beautiful
Beautiful as the where the Baptist church was
Alongside Roaring Fork Creek
The church itself, not so much
Not like the Catholic Church I was used to
This one was rustic, wood floor, cranky wood kneelers
Combustible enough in July
To make one think seriously about repentance
And the song I liked had to be waited for
By singing other hymns to me less lofty
But just as important
To the folks of Sevier County
Who sang more fervently than I remember
Us singing
Back where I called home
So much to love here
Kates and Mamie Ogle
Junior Ogle
Their house is where we learned that song
The mountains instead of a boring prairie
Their horses, the barn, the hounds,
The house we were going to build
And so much of something else
Polite refusals for dad
Wanting to buy a building to start a business
Kids who talked funny and said I did
Foods with strange names I wouldn’t eat
Okra, grits, yams
That was the thing, wasn’t it?
To have one thing, you had to have the other
So here, at Roaring Fork
I played alone outside the church
Because it was so hot inside
I stayed by the creek, watching the water striders
Until I heard the piano play the tune I loved
And then went inside to sing it
With mom and dad and Kates and Mamie and Junior
With every bit of bewildered strength
My lungs had
Along with the rest of the Baptist hill-dwellers in Sevier County
And the next day piled into the Ford Fairlane
And followed Route 441
Out to where we belonged
And would have things of one kind only