Minor Detour Through an Old Knoxville Neighborhood
The apartment complex
at Arbor Place where I shared
a one-bedroom with my cousin
bears the derelict face of abuse.
Doors and windows missing
or kicked in reveal the shadowed
faces of a few squatters, their wary
eyes are abandoned rooms.
The fear of ruin stings
my throat. What happened
to my old neighborhood where half
a block away the bungalows root
in the manicured lawns like oaks
and in one of those houses
I studied piano with a gentle
man who stood behind me
and pushed my shoulders down
and said breathe here and
pianissimo and rubato, rubato,
as I played the Raindrop Prelude?
on the porch, black
oaks shade the heads of two
women, look-alikes in paisley
plump into boxy shoes,
clodhopping leftovers of farm
a bed. Their men
drank, diddled, and died young.
Their hands are liver-spotted, gnarled,
Every couple of weeks
she buys a 25-pound sack
of Dollar Store dog food,
stops on the ridgetop road
between her house and town,
slits the bag open with her
gleaming sharp in morning light,
leaves the food for all the stray dogs
she sees on this daily journey.
They are dropped off like litter
in a town without a pound.
She can’t bring home any more
than the half-dozen she’s saved
already, can’t bear for them to starve.
Their somber eyes know her,
their reflections chasing
her in the rear-view mirror.
Marianne Worthington is a poet and educator living in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Her poetry chapbook, Larger Bodies Than Mine (Finishing Line Press, 2006), won the 2007 Appalachian Book of the Year in Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in Shenandoah, Natural Bridge, Louisville Review, Wind, Arts Across Kentucky, Kaleidoscope, Appalachian Heritage, and in several anthologies including Knoxville Bound, A Kentucky Christmas, and Women.Period. She is editor of Motif: Writing by Ear, an anthology of writings related to music, forthcoming in 2008 from MotesBooks.