HomeSouthern VoiceOur Spirits Shall Sorrow No More

Our Spirits Shall Sorrow No More

by Kory Wells
After Sanford F. Bennett, “In the Sweet By and By”

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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.

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  • Paul / April 19, 2012

    Wow… I have goosebumps, that was simply beautiful.

  • Kory Wells / April 20, 2012

    Thank you, Paul, and to everyone who’s made such nice comments on social media. I’d like to add, Kelsey and I would love for you to connect with us further at


  • Jennie / May 10, 2012

    Exquisite, haunting, and so touchingly precise. As most of Kory Wells’ poems, unforgettable.

  • Michelle Palmer / August 17, 2012

    Lyrical and lovely – listening to Kory and Kelsey Wells is an experience that lingers long after the final word is spoken, and the final chord is struck.

  • Gloria / August 18, 2012

    A beautiful poem, performed lovingly and straight from the heart, as always. And Kelsey’s banjo provides the perfect accompaniment.

  • Martha Hawthorne / December 14, 2012

    I felt like I was a young girl again in the 50’s watching mama. Thank you for allowing me the time to think back to those precious times.

  • susan / August 10, 2015

    Beautiful, Kory. So wonderful to hear your words.