A Man’s Old-Water Soul
burning the carbons of old checkbooks,
watching the ashes tell tales about how he’s spent his life:
A boat that his friend hated
and now Town Clarence hates too.
His daughter’s hair-do, his wife’s hair-do,
his wife’s hair-do, his wife’s hair-do,
bail for Bad Jamie, cow feed, antibiotic syringes,
tires for the truck, tires for the four-wheeler.
Saving Bad Jamie’s ass, whooping daughter’s mean ass
boyfriend, visiting Granny in the nursing home,
swallowing that stink in the nursing home,
mowing such-and-such’s yard, church that Sunday,
that Sunday, that one too.
Naked to the waist, sitting in the rocky creek,
letting the water run over and over his gut
until he feels the water snails creeping up on his fingernails.
To Leave Would Be to Have No Direction
where the water rises to mid-thigh in summer.
where she never shaves.
wanting to go down farther from the top of the low mountain,
farther from the run-down chicken houses
When she thinks of Bad Jamie, her pupils turn to slits
She sends her blessings with the rushing water to an imaginary ocean
When she leaves for home, the damp shadow on the rock
that scares away rabbits and jays.
or beers with friends or a high school football game
for old time’s sake, but none of it mattered
when he saw the flash of flesh
falling fast toward the ground
and the neighbor’s boot rising and arcing
to meet his brother’s belly over and over again.
and the neighbor’s back tooth that listed a bit
to the side was smiling out of the cheek
and leaving a red grin on Clarence’s knuckle.
to stay on the ground. The neighbor’s young wife screamed
and Clarence could smell on her
the musk of pregnancy. His brother’s doing.
into the cab of Clarence’s truck.
Bad Jamie’s dilated pupils peered
like he was watching TV.
was now two men – Town Clarence
who would have kept on driving toward town
and Pasture Clarence whose instincts dictated
that did the hurting. Everyone else go to hell.
And it might as well be him that sent them there.
Pasture Clarence snorted like a brahma bull
he saw the neighbor’s pain pills stuck in Jamie’s pocket.
In his rear mirror, he saw husband and wife
hollering down their marriage.
Town Clarence prayed to God
like they did in church. Pasture Clarence prayed
like animals pray before they eat each other up.
Writer Jessica Fordham Kidd is a lifelong Alabamian. These poems are part of a series involving “Bad Jamie” – a pill addict in southern Appalachia—and intersections of the fantastic, family folklore, and environment. She is the associate director of first-year writing at the University of Alabama, and her poems have appeared in Drunken Boat, Storyscape, Tinderbox, and The Paris Review among others.
Photographer Madeline Leshner is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. She was recently awarded “Best Director” by the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival for her short film, Factory 91. Her work has also been selected by the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival, the New Hope Film Festival, the Philip K. Dick International Film Festival, and others. Check out her work here.