Like a squat, swollen creature,
The victrola stands cornered
At the back of the cabin,
Tense and hungry for freedom.
Lying on his back before the stove.
My grandfather is still a young man,
And his seven other children stand or sit.
For the trade of a pock-kneed braying mule,
The cabin is no longer silent.
My grandmother stirs about the stove,
Steam rising from a pan of potatoes,
And instead of robins singing in the pines,
Squirrels drumming on the new tin roof,
The tea kettle impatient above a winter fire
Whistling a tune remembered from childhood,
She listens to the music of the 78 disc
Spinning on bright green felt,
The strains of Maybelle’s guitar
And the plaintive voice of Sarah
Singing of that old gospel ship
Traveling “far beyond the sky.”
But for her the house was never silent,
Music oozing from the chinks in the planks,
Tapping of a fly against cloudy window panes,
A child humming with a mouthful of gooseberries,
Just standing in the middle of the floor at midnight
Surrounded by steady drumbeats of silence
Which she will remember long after she sets sail
From this worn wooden floor and scraggy hills.
Thomas Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, Midwest Poetry Review, Potpourri, Ariga, Strange Horizons, Combat, American Western Magazine, The Pedestal Magazine, Ash Canyon Review, and Orphan Leaf Review. Reynolds' two poems, "Wanda's Fried Chicken and "78s," are included in the book Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology.