Down by the Riverside

Roof reconstruction with wood framing and trough roof trusses to the sky

Down by the Riverside

Today, I walked down by
the Riverside

Realty sign in front of
the white house

where my neighbor hung
herself last

year. Early modern build, wide
soffits, straight

lines of brick and wood
at odds

with one another. The gate
was open,

so I crossed wet, suburban grass
to the back

yard and looked inside
through miles

of picture window glass: scuffed
parquet, probably

beyond repair, and a loose coaxial
cable for a TV

ain’t nobody gonna study
no more. But,

then, an open door, and the damp
garage. Exposed

rafters, joists, and collar
beams—just as I

imagined. 2 x 8’s and 10’s
for the load

they were meant, and never
meant, to bear

before somebody laid their
burden down.

Suffering and Salvation in the Delta Blues

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Suffering and Salvation in the Delta Blues
MS Humanities Council Teaching Award Presentation

Dr. Randy Smith

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
7:00-8:00 p.m.
(rock ‘n’ roll starts at 6:45)

Belhaven University
Student Center Theater (2nd floor)

1500 Peachtree Street
Jackson, MS, 39202

Free and Open to the Public

Reception to Follow

Intro to Creative Writing: Assignment One

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Intro to Creative Writing: Assignment One

Due: Tomorrow

Directions: Write a poem
with perfect meter and rhyme. You will be

graded by the syllable. Write
a poem in which your father loves you

and does not disappear or yell.
Write a poem with sturdy stanzas and lines

like a good home where your mother
makes biscuits and cornbread from scratch,

where she is lucid, warm, and sane.
Write a poem where no one

goes to hell. Write a poem about your brothers
in which you don’t desert them

to deliver yourself. You will be graded
by those you do not

jilt, dump, ditch, abandon, cross,
or shame.

Write a poem in which no girlfriend
offers herself beneath

stars, the near-mythic beauty of her limbs,
for your long, empty truck-bed

of need. You will be graded by how you please
the constant stars. Write

a poem in which you cure cancer,
emphysema, pneumonia, strokes, diabetes,

vascular occlusions, and bad dreams. Then
burn it with gasoline.

Now write another poem, a different poem,
with crooked lines

and misspelled words, appalling grammar, cliches
of human hurt—show all your

work. You will be graded by
the stumbling drunken mess of your hurt.

This poem is due today and today
and today. Write it now

on a napkin, post, barn, pond, or patch
of hidden skin. Do not

forget to name the indelible verse,
to render, save, and send.

Once, When

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Once, When

I was five, or six, or seven, or
eight, my dad took me

fishing at Lost Creek. With poles
and tackle, we threaded

a briar path from the high dirt road
down to the creek, its thin

bank sandy as a child’s hair, and
water the color

of sweet tea. He loved to fish, but
I can’t remember

the pleasure on his face, only
the two man legs—

like abandoned fence posts whose skew
still marked a dividing line—

standing beside me while I played
with a freshwater

crawfish I caught and trapped
in a tiny scooped pool,

his feathery gills breathing and
breathing for all

his little life was worth.

Give and Take

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Give and Take

We bought a 10-year-old Volvo XC90
this summer to replace

the 20-year-old minivan
I was driving to class and kid car-

pool. Only one door
opened on the van, so I entered

from the back like a man boarding
the Space Shuttle—

ready for his helpless morning blast
into suburban space.

The Volvo is probably the nicest
car anyone in my family

has ever owned—joining a veritable
Christmas parade

flotilla of field trucks (Chevy’s
and Fords), dated

Impalas/Bonnevilles, and other
base sedans, some

with FM radios, cassette players,
and electric windows

to fine-tune that hauling-fishing-poles
work-around.

Four generations of my people
have tended rows

of tobacco, peanuts, and corn,
much like

I tend lines of poems. And the two-peas-
in-the-pod despair

lingers in me that lodged
in them, knowing that a single dry

summer or a lone interstate lane
change can

jerk it all away, because God’s inexorable
smile is a crooked

smile, and all that is is his’uns
to give and his’uns

to take, just like the rain he
justly sends

on good roofs and bad roofs every-
where the same.