HomeSouthern VoiceTwo Poems by Emory Jones

Two Poems by Emory Jones


Live oaks stand like old men sporting gray beards of Spanish moss—
Line the Trace trailing through loam cut deep with countless wagons
Carrying keel-boat men back to Nashville and beyond.
In Natchez-under-the-Hill, they slept with no boots five to a bed,
Gathering strength for the trip back home
After the drunken brawls in crowded saloons.

Aaron Burr talked empire under the oak,
And Jim Bowie honed his knife, waiting for the Alamo.
Indians haunt temple mound
Fight the French at Bienville’s fort
A battle they could never win.

Then culture came, built great houses—
Hoopskirts and velvet grace D’Evereaux
Columned like a Greek temple,
Promenaded Monteigne’s garden path,
Waited for carriage outside Stanton Hall,
Whirled at balls at Dunleith and Melrose
Glimpsed in Young’s So Red the Rose.

Nutt’s folly stands, a Byzantine beauty under onion dome—
Workmen’s tools still where they dropped them,
Answering the call to Civil War—
Longwood, an emblem of a life gone with the wind.

To the north Vicksburg, Gibralter of the West
Stood firm against Yankee attacks by Grant—
Five times Pemberton slapped him away.
In far away Pennsylvania, July 3, 1863
General Lee withdrew his battered
Gray legions from the field of Gettysburg,
Little knowing the next dawn
Would bring Pemberton out of Vicksburg
And crown Grant with victory.

But even now when moonbeams filter
Through magnolias
And when Windsor’s columns stretch Corinthian fingers
Toward racing clouds,
Listen closely—
Is that the steam-whistle challenge of the Natchez
Flung at the Robert E. Lee for another race?


They say we are a crude
Land of redneck bigots,
Good old boys in sheets
Burning crosses
After Saturday night
Coon hunts

Well, maybe so—

While Detroit rumbled
And Watts exploded,
Our white citizens councilled,
Killed and burned.

But then there are
The silver-tongued
Among us—
William Alexander Percy,
Stark Young, William Faulkner,
Eudora Welty,
Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote,
Richard Wright, James Street,
Margaret Walker Alexander,
Ma Rainy, Muddy Waters,
Son Thomas, B. B. King,
Elvis Presley, Tammy Wynette,
Leontine Price, Walter Anderson—
A wealth of art produced in no other state.

Yes, we are bad,
We are sinners,
But sometimes
We are sublime.

Dr. Emory D. Jones is a retired English teacher who has taught in high schools and various community colleges. He has 490 credits, including publication in such journals as Writer’s Digest, Pegasus, Free Xpressions Magazine, The Storyteller, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Gravel, Pasques Petals, The Pink Chameleon, and Encore: Journal of the NFSPS. He is retired and lives in Iuka, Mississippi.

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