Jasper, Georgia by Tennessee Hill

Jasper, Georgia

Heat rises and falls and sits
on mom and pop shop roofs during lunch breaks,
next to metal roosters I wish could point me in the right direction
because it’s all moving too fast to stay still 

Magnolia leaves stink like smoke and second-grade September,
when the neighbor girl set a bag of candy corn at the top
to teach me how to climb this tree, 
Did she ever think it’d make me want to grow wings?

Tape calyx shield leaves to sandal bottoms,
hope maybe they’ll make it like surfing, 
easy the whole way down if knees are bent,
wince when they crunch and feel bones not quite broken

Under anvil hours atop eighteen years of selfless love,
a teapot with no nose,
let my lips whistle from the branches, little bird
call to the others that must be out there and pray they hear

Brown Thrasher, beat a drum and spit
on the sidewalk chalk drawings of a linear life kids sketch and believe,
Sticks and stones and anarchist day dreams of birds in cages
to keep Law and Order for God and Country

Paint my coarse belly feather plume,
feed the sunset a stream of soft maroon
like tomato soup to a sick and wounded warrior,
saltines on the side to suck up the salvaged souls and save them

When the sinners walk by, with strollers and dogs on leashes,
sing seasonal carols and help them understand
that epitaphs only matter to trembling lips and dripping hearts —
If their dead one stole an extra breath, do they really think they'd quote Psalms?

Would they? Or would they
give Sister the rundown on all the old vinyls, 
tell Mom that they loved her, Dad they always wished they had,
God to slow it down this time, they missed the lights first go around

They are hung there
and I can see, from this tree top
that they pick from their gardens, weave nooses like corsages and
happily swing from them like tires in a young couple’s backyard 

Have they ever felt the wind push so hard, 
sing an invocation to the muses so loud—
Have they ever been too buried in this red dirt
to care?

Weather vane confessional,
butterfly my blue tubes, draw the blood thick and slow
to streak the broadside of a barn with my shade of sorrow
and the people can know, see my ghost on a morning run

Holy, Holy, Holey, Lord
you look different in this light
Or am I there yet? Do you have freckles?
It sounds a lot like waking up in the morning 

This feels nothing like falling asleep — what liars they all are,
If my throat would stop shuttering, if my eyes would just close,
these wings around me would feel so much warmer, cozier next to these roots
and I could slip into another world’s undertow, still.

Tennessee Hill is a Freshman working toward her BFA in Creative Writing at Stephen F. Austin State University. She has been featured in HUMID 8 and The Feminine Collective.

Elijah Tubbs