A Pair of Poems About Music
The Happy Hitters Sing Songs of Praise at the Pisgah Baptist Church
Jasper, Alabama 1949
by Harold Whit Williams
Upon this Maundy Thursday night, the boys
Are in their Sunday best. Ottis and Doyle
Will trade their tenor parts as Berkley brays
His basso profundo. Women are prim and still
But squirm with less than holy thoughts when Clyde,
Young Billy Sherrill’s daddy, takes his solos —
When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, Satisfied,
And others. Lonnie Williams testifies
About that drunken time he burnt up half
Of Hackleburg. If the Lord’ll forgive me —
He says — ain’t nothing you got any worse! A riff
From the parlor organ calls the folks to be
Reborn in Jesus. Berkley whistles low
And winks at a pretty thing in the first row.
Harold Whit Williams is the recipient of this year’s Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, and his newest collection, Backmasking, is winner of the 2013 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize, forthcoming from Texas Review Press. His first collection, Waiting For The Fire To Go Out, is available from Finishing Line Press. His poems have also appeared in numerous literary journals, including Deep South in April 2013. In his spare time, Williams is the guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, whose fans include the Gallagher brothers of Oasis, R.E.M.’s Pete Buck and Williams’ grandmother.
Ah, To the West
by Anthony Gaitros
My head is in the mountains
where she’ll be commin’ around
any minute now, to take me away
to a sweet valley and a slow river.
And I’m a beautiful dreamer, Susanna,
With a crick in my neck,
holes in my shoes,
wine and dimes for my
friends on the street,
I’m south of a rainbow,
north of the blues.
But when I wake,
alls I see is big white
stones at my head and my feet,
A freight train on the rails,
and a snake cookin’ in the street.
I found my pa, Susanna, drunken in a hailstorm.
He took me home, put me to bed,
and stomped out a cigarette
on the shard of light that shone in from the door.
Anthony Gaitros is a recent graduate of Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he was published in the Kudzu Review. He has spent most of his life on the border of Florida and Georgia, next to Pebble Hill Plantation, but now lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri. The thing he misses most about home is the Spanish moss.