Connie Jordan Green

My Father's Gods
                   after Bill Brown

     
   

My father worshipped tunnels
through Kentucky’s veined earth,
followed the beam of light on his hat,
pick axe and dynamite, tamping tool
and shovel as dear as sweetheart or daughters,

worshipped camping and fishing,
swimming in Tennessee’s lakes, his daughters
his congregation, a trotline and campfire
his hymnal and prayer book. We joined
a chorus he conducted wordlessly.

My father worshipped our mother,
gave us a dime for the Saturday matinee,
empty house a shrine for obeisance
to the shape and form, song and quick
laugh that was the woman he chose.

Work filled his war days at the gaseous
diffusion plant, where he pedaled a bicycle
down the mile-long building, a technician
by label, never spoke of what he saw,
what he handled, what he knew.

He worshipped his garden, soil a chalice
into which he poured the prayer of seed,
the entreaty of water and manure,
worshipped his chickens,
their feathery bodies, yellow beaks,

worshipped a final breath,
asphalt parking lot’s arms open
to receive his last  halleluiah.

     
         
 

Tending the Garden

     
   

You don’t have to know
what feeds the seed, urges

its metamorphosis into tendril
and stem, into leaf, flower,

fruit, and then seed once more.
You don’t have to understand

soil, mix of loam and sand,
peat and manure, acidity, alkalinity,

how clay can harden
or sponge up moisture,

the role of earthworms tunneling
their heaven-sent trails, eating the earth,

casting their wealth. You don’t have to measure
rainfall, track sun’s northward journey,

its turning at last back toward equinox.
You don’t have to learn Latinate names,

study genetics, Mendel’s years of pea vines.
You need only tie on a hat, slip your feet

into last year’s sneakers, kneel where sun
and rain, where seasons and weather bless

your bent back, pronounce a beneficence
on your garden-loving soul.

     
         
 

Song To My Husband

     
   

While the sun drops low, he oils rusted bolts,
greases pipe and elbow, patience honed
by experience. Next day he will free
frozen gears, slide loose pins, clean, shine, repair.
Behind him a tractor stands in stripped glory—
fenders and hood stacked to the side, motor
like bones plucked to pistons and drive shaft.
Around his feet oily rags, bent pieces
of steel, dry leaves blown on November wind.
In the fading light, he is the only god
to be found: master of the tool box, maker
of slick parts, restorer of rusted metal,
he who brings life to what the rest of us
would bury without benediction.

     
 
      return to poetry
 

Connie Jordan Green is the author of two novels, The War at Home and Emmy, and two poetry chapbooks, Slow Children Playing and Regret Comes to Tea. Her novels have been listed in the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults and selected as a Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. Her poetry has appeared in publications including Appalachian Heritage, Crossroads, MayPop, Now & Then, Potomac Review, and anthologized in Outscape; Motif: Writing by Ear; The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III; Contemporary Appalachia; and Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets. A Lifetime Achievement inductee into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame, Green’s newspaper column appears in The Loudon County News Herald , and she teaches creative writing and literature for Oak Ridge Institute of Continued Learning.