Three Poems by Thomas Alan Holmes

A. C. Lambert, Appalachian Poet, Studies Abroad in the United Kingdom

I bet in pubs he plays up
Southern drawl—I’ve heard the Brits
are buying JD for him
just to hear him talk
about Virginia, Tennessee,
and he will call them “y’all”
and change a lot of “ahs” to “aws”
and “eyes” to “ahs.” I hope he
holds it back a bit and sounds
a lot like Brick; too much, like
always, sounds too much like Blanche.

I bet in pubs he lays on
Southern drawl–he’s droppin’ Gs
and growlin’ Rs like Killer
and Roy Orbison,
the moan, the “Mama” glottal stopped.
And he will curl his lip
and comb his hair to pompadour
and twitch his stance. I hope he
belts it out a bit and sings
a Conway song, not Elvis;
always, Brits expect the King.

I bet in pubs he trades in
Southern drawl, not leave it all
behind, affect a British
accent, drop his jaw
and talk like water fills his mouth.
He’ll make it currency.
He’ll make those kids hear melody
and want to sing. I hope he
draws it out a bit and sounds
a lot like home, like ours here,
and, including him, theirs there.

***

Beautician

You found the broken glasses
in the kitchen cabinets,
just days ago you saw
translucent mayonnaise
out on the counter.
You read in his red-rimmed eyes,
his hangdog stoic face,
that he lied along with you,
that it was only Parkinson’s
and that his neural breakdown
had just to do with hands
but not his swallowing,
his bladder control, or even
his heartbeat. When you peek
in here, our hair salon,
and you chuckle at the thought
of elderly vanity,
seeing the manicures
and thinking to ask if men
can get their haircuts here,
I will cheerfully assure you
they do, and I will mention,
smiling, my manicure
and pedicure service, too.
Counting costs, you will consider
manicure and pedicure
a bit beyond your means;
your father will not want them,
you decide, and you will move
him in before the weekend.
A couple of weeks later,
when I am cutting his hair,
I will ask about his feet
and soon he will admit
that he has not been able
to cut his toenails for years,
even before his wife passed.
Although he has washed as best
he could, his nails will be thick
and yellow, and we will be
grateful there is no fungus.
I will soak his sore feet
in Epsom salts with mint, pat
them dry, and spend an hour
tenderly trimming his nails
and soothing his ache away.
Diverted by my work,
I will seem not to notice
when he cries, and the first
pedicure is on me.

***

Icing Down the Cat

It would not do to bury her
out back, that goddamned cat,
oh, no, convulsing and put down
on Wednesday, great big vet bill, not
a chance that he’d dispose of her
when Emily, in tears, said Winks
is family and ought to rest
in peace at Eustace Gap where all
our buried people are. She hugged
the ziplocked Baggie to our house,
and I convinced my wife and her
at last that I could not miss work
another day, that Saturday
we’d all load up and go on back
up in the hills and do it right.
But when I grabbed the freezer door,
Faynelle cut me a look that made
me wish we were in church so she
would stare off into space and I
could read a Bible verse and try
to make it fit my life somehow,
but I gave her a look that said
“By Saturday . . .” without a word,
and she stuck out her jaw and clamped
her eyebrows down. Oh, hell, I broke
my old foam cooler, so I said,
“I’ll go to Wal-Mart”–no, I had
to get my Igloo Playmate, grab
what ice I could, and pack dead Winks
still in the Baggie on the spot.
I kept her in my truck bed, but
I never checked on her except
to hope someone had stolen her.
And now Faynelle and Emily
are bawling all the way to lay
that cat to rest, and I’ll bet you
before the month is done, there’ll be
another cat before I earn
the extra pay to get it fixed.