Four Poems

Baker’s Pick
Jeff Alan Russell


Reliance, Tennessee 37369
Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson

Waitin’ on Mail

There’s nothing
Like a warm day in November
or the Hutsons’ dogs getting some sun,
or waiting on the kids to give them
their brand new shoes—
they gotta have what the other kids got—
I love those big smiles.

It’s time
for the mail to run this afternoon
and maybe the big check will be here on time,
or just enough to get some new coveralls
and a few smokes—
The boys are little late today—
just tappin’ my foot.

Need to get
some meat or a roast.
The lady loves good roast,
always singing while the potatoes start
dancin’ in the pot—
Can’t wait to see the boys—
Loosen my shirt ’cause it’s little warm.

Serve it up
’cause the boys will eat it up,
and will be ribbin’ each other,
squakin’ elbows all awkward and stuff.
They’ll tell me about their days and I’ll smile—
Only telling them about how good they are—
Praisin’ Jesus, being thankful.

 

Sundown on Indiana Street

Waiting by the side of the busy road,
my old legs don’t move too fast,
as the cars roar by blaring their radios.

Guess I better hurry ’cause it’s nearing dusk,
I gotta get to work early—
and I gotta take Betty to the doctor.

Up before dawn and down by nightfall,
I get so tired of running and running—
It was so much easier back then.

So many cars, so many houses, just so much—
it’s grown up around here with all the business
that I don’t recognize it sometimes.

I miss the old street with the old people and the old ways.
I miss Pappy’s little store down the road—
too bad they tore it down last year.

At least I can go by Rosie’s shop a little farther on down—
I got to walk a little farther ’cause it’s Betty’s favorite—
Betty likes those chess pies with all that sugar.

It gets hard to find your way home when it gets dark,
’cause my eyes ain’t what they used to be—
all these cars running by, all these young kids.

I know my legs hurt but Betty’s waitin’ on me
as I let the cars pass by me on my right—
I just hope I can find my way home.

 

Blessing Garden

Lend me a new hand,
as I watch over my beautiful plants,
soft and green, so beautiful, so pretty.

This garden was given to me from my father,
who died over thirty years ago,
during the drought of ’77.

He toiled these plants with his large hands,
after he came home from the factory,
pouring sweat from his boots.

He would always sing about Jesus,
lovin’ the gospel with all his soul,
waitin’ for his day of glory.

He would always says t’is garden was a blessin’,
a blessin’ from Jesus to take his troubles,
and he would cry every day in happiness.

Momma said his tears were for his children,
and the squash and greens would grow bigger,
feedin’ all the family from his heart and prayer.

Now, I feed my children with this garden full of greens,
but I’m afraid I’m getting too old with bad knees—
I never had strong hands like my father.

I know the garden since I was a child
Working with my father at night and early mornin’,
It’s what makes sense to me.

Now, I ask you my son, to help me with God’s gifts,
Cause my tears are not enough—
I hope you can understand.

Lend me a new hand and new heart,
and please help me with these here squash—
they need to get picked before it gets too hot.

 

The Waiting Trail

Looking out by the treeline,
losing all ambition as my
lungs take in the damp air,
twigs breaking in different places
by the well-beaten trail.

“Away with it all,” she says.
Anxious sweat beads on my brow
as her lips speak to the birds
perched on the birch branch.

Taking a quick drink,
the river water stops the bubbles
rising in my cracked throat.
She puts my hand into a fist—
“Let it all go” she says.

Whispering trees and a cool wind,
falling softly upon my shoulders,
her fingers slowly running,
moving to the rhythm of
the rushing creek,
as she slips through
the cracks of the woods,
in between my memories,
blinding me with visions
following me along the river.

In the distance, silos run
parallel to the creekside as I stare
at the spaces in between the pines,
as the wet leaves press
gently across my gaping mouth.

Waiting for this southern girl—
looking for the northern lights
as the wind hits my pale face.
I just want to know my place,
to know behind those eyes.

I watch her float effortlessly—
laughing like the banshees
hiding in the common ground,
as I try to catch twilight,
turning over jars
full of pebbles.

pencil

Jeff Alan Russell graduated with a Master of Arts in English from Belmont University this past summer, and he has also been published several times for his work in Middle Tennessee State University’s Collage: Journal of Creative Expression and The Murfreesboro Pulse. He is a newlywed and is currently living with his wife and dog in Maryville, Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. Email: russellja[at]belmont.edu