Our Spirits Shall Sorrow No More
by Kory Wells
After Sanford F. Bennett, “In the Sweet By and By”
In the sweet
moments, I forget you’re gone.
I picture you in your red-checkered kitchen,
skillet popping grease, peas and pearl onions
in the pot, morsel to your mouth. Needs more salt.
Then we’re on the porch, between us a TV tray,
all the implements for a manicure.
Even now I relax, thinking how gently
you’d file and buff my fingernails,
like you had all the time in the world
to pamper a little girl. But there was always
supper to cook, clothes to wash,
beds to make, errands to run, until
by and by
the news came late one night.
I was washing clothes for my own family,
pressed for time to reply to your last letter,
and you were suddenly gone.
A little bird flew by my car window
all the way to your funeral. A sudden breeze
whipped through the clapboard church
when we sang “In the Garden.” These were signs
we shall meet
again, of this I am certain.
You spoke often of the time you stepped back
from your ironing into the ghost of your daddy.
You knew things for reasons you couldn’t explain:
when the phone was going to ring, when a visitor
was due, when you were going to die. So I must ask:
with all your great connections to the other side, why
have you not come to see me, except in my dreams?
Except for the occasional whiff of gardenia perfume
I catch when no one else is around?
Maybe you’d say you’re worried I’d be spooked,
but I don’t think that’s it. I think somewhere
on that beautiful shore
you’re having too much fun.
I can hear you now, laughing and singing duets
with Conway – at least until Loretta comes,
eating fresh peaches and crispy fried chicken
as good as if you’d cooked it,
and sitting on the porch of an evening
with your mama and daddy and sisters,
retelling your favorite stories
of spirits and ghosts.
A writer, mother, wife and daughter of the South, Kory Wells was born in Chattanooga and has lived most of her life in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and is the author of the poetry collection, “Heaven Was the Moon.” This poem has never been published and is included in the book “Don’t Forget This Song: Four Writers Celebrate the Carter Family and Other Roots Musicians,” a project headed by and including the work of Maggi Britton Vaughn, who grew up in Mississippi and is now poet laureate of Tennessee. The audio is of Wells, with her daughter, Kelsey, playing clawhammer banjo, and will be included in the pair’s CD, “Decent Pan of Cornbread,” due out this fall. “In the Sweet By and By” was first published in 1868; lyrics by S. Fillmore Bennett, music by Joseph P. Webster.