Seven Ways to Sunday
Physical Graffiti dropped
in ’75 the one and only time
I was the seventh caller
compliments of KFFA and DJ Jack.
We burnt rubber and feathered out
on Cherry Street, surprised
when our crow came in pitched high,
moaning “In My Time of Dying”
along with Robert Plant, the blues
like nobody but Zeppelin in the 70s
and Blind Willie Johnson’s words.
We were all over
the map in terms of key
trying seven ways to Sunday
to find footing, blinded by our own
lye, our own partial solar eclipse1,
yearning old lyrics to the unknown new.
Why would we, so young, beg to die easy?
Why sing what got scraped out of the gravel
in Blind Willie Johnson’s chest?
Still we longed in fact.
It was Jesus we sang, Jesus gone
make up our dying bed,
Jesus gone give us another pair
when our wings give out.
O my Jesus we moaned like we were coming
instead of going, O my Jesus
from the seat of daddy’s John Deere,
over the groceries we sacked at Safeway,
in the backseat under summer
angels and stars on the levee—
ringing up Jesus, let me in Jesus.
O my Jesus into the Arkansas Delta night,
O my Jesus rising thin and earnest
above the tangle of our busted small-town’s grip,
our bye-bye longing to be somebody
like nobody’s business.
1The reports vary as to how Blind Willie Johnson lost his sight as a boy. Some say his stepmother threw lye in his face; others claim he viewed a partial solar eclipse over Texas in 1905.
Make Like a Tree
I left; my hometown did not.
That’s why Helena never comes calling
north in loud daylight, only
appears ever now over the years
as a faint flash in the corner
of my eye, or a brash drive-by
in dreams, only
I must always leave
to go south,
back to what’s left
of the hand I was given.
Such things! The favorite feel
of a yellowed pillow; a peach-pit
monkey Uncle Johnny carved
while doing time; the comfort food
of a smoker’s cough
or the clatter of supper plates
in the distance at dusk; the peril
and lure of two-lane blacktop
with little shoulder; a stray dog’s
eager visit, free-ranging house to house,
open to whatever I’ve got
to give I walk therein, the air
pungent, I’m pinned
to the blue
ruin that is a light,
a footing after a fall.
Above, a chiffon moon
arcs through what remains
of the brazen azure day.
I look toward the sway
of dark oak branches
overhead, listen up
as God creaks in and out.
Terry Minchow-Proffitt lives in St. Louis, MO. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. His chapbook, Seven Last Words (2015), and his two collections, Chicken Train: Poems from the Arkansas Delta (2016) and Sweetiebetter (2019), were published by Middle Island Press.