Allison Thorpe: Four Poems

Southern Legitimacy Statement:  I’ve swallowed moonshine and lived to brag about it; escaped a copperhead’s randy tongue; ridden a tobacco setter like some rogue elephant; eaten fresh-caught bluegill at dawn; been romanced by a choir of whippoorwills; and fallen asleep amid a lightning bug circus. Wouldn’t live anywhere else.

 

Chasing the little Dog I Named Jimmy  

                         After Al Stewart’s “The New Mule”

 

Chasing the little dog I named Jimmy

wasted most of a busy morning.

 

It started when he wormed his way

into the chicken coop barking

 

biddies from their warm nesting.

He had never experienced rooster spurs before.

 

His yelps trailed him down the holler

and I thought I was rid of him.

 

In the middle of baking bread

I saw him trying to dig up the mole

 

that was plaguing my green bean patch,

loose dirt spraying the air like an oil gusher.

 

I shooed him off to the woods where

he eyed me suspiciously:

 

he was only trying to help

his black and white face seemed to say.

 

Feeling sorry for the little stray,

I brought out a bowl of milk soaked old bread,

 

but he was having none of it,

so I went back to baking.

 

When I looked through the window a few minutes later,

it was all gone,

 

and he was on top of the compost heap

scratching and burrowing.

 

Scolding my foolishness for feeding him,

I drove him once more off to his wooded retreat.

 

Whose spirit was he

to torment me like this?

 

An old boyfriend?

Some Yankee in-law?

 

The squirrel I accidentally

ran over last spring?

 

He reminded me of the mule

you spent years training

 

before he lost his edge

and mellowed to hand and harness.

 

Late afternoon I saw Jimmy racing the yard,

a host of uprooted pansies in his mouth.

 

This time he thought my chase

a new and wonderful game.

 

He scrabbled to the top of the wood pile

and down sending logs and pansies flying.

 

As I tried to restack the firewood,

I saw him tugging the mesh around the new apple tree.

 

I considered the BB gun,

but he cocked his head

 

as if to ask

aren’t you having fun yet?

 

He gave a little warm whimper

and took a few paces toward me.

 

With melting heart and brain,

I refilled the bread and milk dish.

 

The next morning he and the food were gone.

I watched for him all day

 

and the weeks to come,

but he had moved on,

 

a poem haunting these hills

lost and wandering.

 

All Day Geese Dance

 

All day geese dance

This southern sky in fluid tattoo

Honking their winter omens

 

While I haul and stack wood

Store butternut squash to root cellar

Cover the tulip and daffodil bulb

 

Challenging chores for one

with a spring fed heart

that swells with crocus defiance

the pluck of whippoorwill chant

the burst of anything green

 

The geese wing our hope onward

As I drink the sun one last time

Before night steals its fame

And leaves us wanting

 

 

All We Need To Know

 

Once around the square

(post office, grocer, library, feed store)

and we have all the worldly news we need:

Cecil Edwards’ boy Buddy arrested

for pissing on the sheriff’s car,

giant rain front coming,

Mabel’s Crafts closing

after twenty years,

tractor pull on Saturday.

 

I drive the miles back home

and catch up on the local gossip:

deer in the sweet potatoes,

trees bending and swaying

chatter rain is coming,

Zsa Zsa’s barks announce the mail,

near the empty feeder

a hummingbird hisses his hunger.

 

 

Nashville’s Midnight Opus

The racket began at midnight.

She wasn’t even our donkey.

Sold when the owner took sudden leave,

named for his hometown,

we were just the transition team.

Three docile days with her—

the new owner expected in the morning—

and now this commotion

sending us scampering from bed

at her abrasive hee-hawing.

Coarse sandpaper against

an open wound

would have been kinder.

 

We raced out half-dressed,

flashlights strobing the night

for some practical cause.

She hurtled around the fenced field

braying at ear splitting decibels.

I expected the noise squad

at any moment.

Just as suddenly

she stopped.

We blazed our lights

in half-hearted discovery,

then tromped back

to warmth and dreams.

 

On the verge of doze,

it began again.

Once more we leapt to duty

although nothing but noise

ventured into our beams,

the clamor now a constant being

with breath and body and smell.

We knew little of donkeys.

Maybe this is what they did.

We shuffled into the house finally,

settling at the kitchen table,

dead eyes fixed on wall or floor.

Sleep was impossible.

Even the radio didn’t drown her out.

 

 

She stopped at daybreak.

An hour or so later

the farmer came to collect her.

When we related the experience,

he only nodded and said,

“She’s a warner.”

“A what?” we questioned together.

“Warner. Tells you intruders are about—

coyote, fox, bobcat, even humans.

She’s better’n a guard dog.”

 

He backed his trailer up to the fence.

I slipped the rope around her neck

and gave a gentle pull.

“Let’s go, Nashville.

You’re moving to your new home.”

The farmer gave us a suspicious look,

took the rope, and clucked his tongue,

“C’mon, Jenny girl.”

She boarded without a backward glance.

 

That evening we sighed in giddy

anticipation of hushed reverent sleep,

but soon our eyes darted windows

swallowed by a troubled dark

where the unseen wander.

 

 

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