Larry Smith: “At the Country Store”

 

 

At the Country Store

Outside of the town’s country store
stand two girls in high school jackets,
their sports names scrawled across the back.
Laughing at the greeting of cats,
they enter, sidling their way back—
past stacks of canned goods and chips,
pastas, plates, and mugs, bottles of Coke
and maple syrup, stacks of hometown t-shirts.
Rich aromas of fresh baked bread and flowers,
coffee aroma mixed with fresh cut cheese, all of it
pulling them to the meat counter.
The tall one stops, leans towards her sister,
says, “Remember now, she’s just lost her son 
in Afghanistan.” The younger one nods, 
looks up into the face of the older woman,
“Oh, Mrs, Murphy, we’ve come for Mom’s chickens.”
The older woman smiles, “Oh, if it isn’t Sherill…
and Marie. So good to see you girls.”
Names form a sacred bond here. 
“How’s your sister Margaret?” Sherill asks.
“Oh, she’s okay,” the woman lies, not wanting
to spoil their day, like that fish someone left out.
“Well, I’ve got your chickens already wrapped,”
she says, eyeing their fresh faces.
At the counter she touches each girl’s hand.
“You two be careful out there,” she says softly
into their eyes. “You know how we need you.”
A bell chimes as they exit the door.

 

About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

More By Larry Smith:

Union Town

No Walls

Wages

 

Image Credit: Marion Post Wolcott, “Selling drugs and medicines in doctor’s office in rear of country store. Faulkner County, Arkansas” (1940) The Library of Congress

 

Larry Smith: “Union Town”

 

 

Union Town

Once a month for decades
he brought home the Catholic Worker
folded gently and laid it on kitchen table,
where it would be picked up, read, 
folded, and laid back again.
A fabric in their lives,
like the Catholic missals
she kept in rubber bands
folded in her dresser drawer.
He spoke little of the mill,
except of friends, left it
at the mill gate where others
might stop in bars to drink
their bitterness away.

Their children are taught by Catholic sisters
of Charity, Franciscans who share
Christ’s preference for the poor by
having them bring cans of food each month,
and at some secret signal near recess
gently bowl them forward on the wooden floor—
twenty cans of green beans, corn, tomato sauce
reaching the blackboard with sweet laughter,
as the Sister feigns surprise, then bends
to gather them up, and they all
bow their heads in thanks.

 

About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

More By Larry Smith: 

No Walls

The Story of Rugs

Wages

 

Image Credit: Lewis W. Hine “Furniture Factory Worker or Printer?” (1930s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Larry Smith: “The Story of Stones”

 

 

The Story of Stones

They lie along the pond’s edge
refusing to nestle or speak.
Their acceptance is to sun and moon
all types of weather.

Sometimes a kid comes
and casts them out yelling wildly,
another gathers them up 
and scurries them home. 

And sometimes a father 
tries to name them
pointing to their faces and bodies,
but kids ignore this
and hold the stone up close,
its surface touching skin
to hear their real names,

Later they place them by their bed
to dream upon—
stones that break open into crystal,
stones that shed a white milk,
stones with stone hearts,
stones to swallow as candy. 

Days and nights, weeks and months, 
until a mother gathers them up
and throws them out into the yard.
Under sun and moon again, 
they are kissed by weather.

 

 

About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

More By Larry Smith:

Forget Math and Science

Wages

No Walls

 

Image Credit: “Pont de Sallanches” V. Muzet (1860s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

 

Larry Smith: “The Story of Rugs”

 

 

The Story of Rugs

They cover holes in the earth
we walk upon when all else
has let us down.  
Woven by elders from the 
hair of sheep fresh shorn
their faces kiss our feet.
For days at a time 
the old sit in silence
peddling and bobbing
to continue our line.

And so, their deaths
move us closer to the time
when no rugs are spread before us,
and their faces are worn through,
when empty spaces
fill our hearts.

 

.

About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

More By Larry Smith:

Forget Math and Science

Wages

No Walls

 

Image Credit: “Two women making rugs on porch” The Library of Congress

“Forget Math and Science” By Larry Smith

 

 

Forget Math and Science

Birds live inside of birds
tucked away for spring release
their naked bodies embraced
in sleep’s sweetness.
Their wings are tongues licking
each other’s face.
Don’t try to count them all
they’re an infinite multiple of six.

To love a single bird
you must become one
inside and out, top to bottom.
Then rise wings up and fly
sing through beak and body
the song of I Am.

 

About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

More By Larry Smith:

Wages

No Walls

 

Image Credit: Frans Snyders “Perroquets et autres oiseaux” (17th Century) Public Domain

“Wages” By Larry Smith

 

Wages

Payday comes in from the cold
and sets a bag down in the hallway.
She finds her place at the table
where we are dressed in our good clothes.
Mom is already drinking wine
and Dad is telling funny work stories.
Payday laughs like coins falling on a metal tray.
We pass her the pork chops
and watch her fork not one but two—
“One for later,” she grins at us.
Like always we pretend to smile.

By the time the sun has set
we’ve said good-bye to our Payday
and a silence fills the room.
When I break a plate, Mom cries,
“Oh shit. Look what you’ve done.”
You can hear the sound of wind.
Then Mom hands Dad a fist full of bills,
and we kids go off to our rooms.
Tomorrow will mean our old clothes again
and the counting of our coins.

 

About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

Image Credit: “Alabama Tenant Farmer Family Singing Hymns” Walker Evans (1936) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.