Two Poems by Carolyn Hembree


Conjures the raven—


old ballyhoo!
our head-
lights, bank
our chevy
hull our
dog pens
milk crates
where drowse
our blue tick
grouse, dove
drown us
in rain-
bow oil
my bones
stomping ground
my ribcage
stone’s throw
my brains
my skull
for barbed
wire nests
to glister
opened window
to pass
be fledgling
be scripture
be bluebottle


Parable from My Forebears


During the Easter homily, the Holiness preacher used the phrase slain in the Spirit twenty-six times. And spent his pauses three ways: exhaling ha, touching the death certificate—his own, a snakebite—in his breast pocket, drinking from a half-gallon canning jar of strychnine. Other times the keyboard or drums added a flourish.


Too cold—must have been—to gather copperheads or rattlers from Gum Fork: no serpent boxes at the altar. No propane torches.


The sermon was about clearing a neighbor’s land. When they were pulling back the canebrake, they found an old corncrib and under some boards a store of—Paused here, took a huge swig—home canned peaches sixty years old. Some shrugged relief, or maybe, disappointment it wasn’t money.


One woman skipped through the aisles throughout the service. He put on a woman’s voice then: Don’t you eat them. It’ll poison you.


Which is true. Eventually. That the low acid content of peaches makes them more vulnerable to C. Botulinum. Thirty-six hours before it kicks in sometimes. Gut rot. Paralysis.


Some danced in the aisles with one hand up testifying and like a pole was up their backs—the clogging tradition most probably from Wales. So they ate them all, the land clearers the peaches, and they were the best tasting peaches anybody had ever had.


And then one very old woman, the only in gingham, went up front and we all laid hands on her. The circle migrated but stayed up front and made low sounds. While the boy—couldn’t have been more than ten—played drums and the preacher sang, I’m Going On. Did he mean Home?

carolynhembree headshotCarolyn Hembree’s debut collection, Skinny, was published by Kore Press in 2012. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Jacket2, jubilat, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Her Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine & Other Ways to Escape a Plague was a finalist for the 2012 Tupelo Press’ and Switchback Books’ manuscript competitions. Carolyn grew up in Tennessee and Alabama. Before completing her MFA, she found employment as a cashier, housecleaner, cosmetics consultant, telecommunicator, actor, receptionist, paralegal, coder, and freelance writer. She teaches at the University of New Orleans and serves as Poetry Editor of Bayou Magazine.

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