Shelly Taylor

Lay me down in a manger not cold with war 


 

For every girl that got hers in the barn loft around sixteen as I did.  In winter 

I painted the walls yellow of the brightest pallor for when the weather turned 

us inward.  Overalls girl no film script can save you.  Mary Pickford’s 

got a mama who bellowed the cats in from the doorline too   grew up 

a cotton field mules away from lovers   smell of diesel   hands low 

in the tilled earth   you poppy child   bread loaf cheeks oh Gladys 

her mama called her here   is a landscape offering   mountains covered 

with snow all the way to Mexico.  He called her sweetheart fourteen ways 

the lamppost light swandives her body some half-ass scene 

god-forbidden halo where the ditch water’s gone over the road to home. 

Was she forced to stand there for hours?  Did the lines call for all that 

wailing without a single word you could hear? 
 



 

Faster faster 

 

Willow haberdashery   rock-n-roll on the record player   think ice cube 

wrists   branches dusting the ground   temple-like   lemongrass behind 

the ears & on the dog’s ears & forehead too.  Bodies been floating 

face up the Ocmulgee   since forever   I been trying my best to avoid love 

on a small level   like chopping the pear tree down before the storm 

too close to the house   good documentation of the finch teaching hurry 

fly   mira I tell the dog   even through the lack-light here it comes 

redbird   like a childhood sweetheart   floodwater.  Thick pine woods 

each long-legged growing girls   trees   a man could lose half-a-peck of 

mind & for sure gun   pack of hounds   one-eyed sympathies   the lot. 

They’ll be sending great slivers of fire through the pine   derides sure 

death by vine   whip her long dark hair back   girls on knees in sun 

to stay decay & ruin   linnet & godspeed   palms out a boat to 

remember history   tick moss   flowers   awkward corsages on that 

old thing   fists this machine is too fast   you got a small river boat 

boys & bats   girls got quick showing roots on banks 

gumption   minnows in the cut-bucket tank   mudbelly catfish   mustang 

car parts for sale oh Lord   I kept the good foot & I opened into song—

 

Shelly Taylor is the author of three full-length poetry collections, B-Side Girls Knockin’ Sugar in the Gourd (The Magnificent Field, 2020), Lions, Remonstrance (Coconut Books Braddock Book Prize, 2014) and Black-Eyed Heifer (Tarpaulin Sky, 2010). She is the co-editor, with Abraham Smith, of the anthology of rural American poetry and essays, Hick Poetics (Lost Roads Press, 2015). Notes from Byzantium (Black Rock Press, 2019), a book arts chapbook with artist-collaborator Eben Goff, is her most recent chapbook. Taylor lives in rural southern Georgia and is a barrel racer and educator.

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