The Fraternity of Singing Men

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The Fraternity of Singing Men

It’s 1980 and August and hot and my back is nearly broke cause Big Rick got drunk with the rest of us camping in the cow pasture behind my house the weekend before college and we “pretend” wrestle and he power drives me into the ground from above his head and then I sleep on the hood of my car. And now my dad and uncle drive me 5 hours north—my back braced and chiropractored just enough—through Camilla, Albany, Cordele, Vienna, Unadilla, Perry, Macon, Gray, Eatonton, Madison, and Watkinsville to UGA in Athens. And the whole damn way the Bonneville rides at deep-load displacement, filled to the brim with all the records, speakers, turn tables, tuners, amps, and dunnage of my teen life, cruising at the speed of a tractor pulling a transplanter in a tobacco field. And the whole damn way we drag the plug of my new black-and-white TV, locked out the back door and scraped off down to bare dangling wires on 250 miles of shimmering Georgia blacktop. Oh well. But they help with the carrying and stairs and boxes till I’m left in a room like a chicken coop and do the only thing there is to do—assemble the stereo and blast (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) like a mating song till Gimme Three Steps draws a bunch of rednecks to my place and we talk and dip and sing and smoke—cause God meant us to smoke wherever the hell we want, even inside—and smoke fills the dorm room and clings to our jeans and marks us all with ash the same so we remember the places from where we came, the barns and pines and gnat-swarmed, corn-growing dirt we leave without regret or escape.

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After the Band

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After the Band

Blonde Hailey sings
        hard and
Lean like a
        head
Saw rips bucked trees,
        flinging
Cants and flitches cut
        rough
Edged and splintered
        on a
Summer day. In after
        song,
When canvas-gloved
        sawyers
Go home, and the day
        sits
Still like a hot cooling
        blade,
I drive sawn and un
        banded
Home with Hailey’s
        blonde
Curls still swinging
        felled
And free in the knots
        and pitch
Pockets of her coda’s
        passion—
She is smoke and silence
      in the pines.
What curious times for
        ember
Eyed boys when
        storms
Strike like a band—
        needles
Of straw tinder
        forest
Floors, thunder lines
        crouch
Diatonic against
        the sky,
Beads of rain fall un
        chained
From the rock and roll
        clouds,
Lightning hums a saw
        toothed
Song, the land awakes,
        and trees
Praise fire in the night.