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?
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.