Hembree

Did the Universe Have a Beginning, and If So, What Happened Before Then?

Carolyn Hembree

When the brightest aurora borealis ever known in this county arose, people could be heard praying in almost every part of the neighborhood

Kettles in the open and grape arbors splitting under blackberry tonnage

What’s given way to

Names for dwelling in—Bon Air Springs, Ravenscroft, Sunset Rock

My grandmother’s pinning bills to her underthings, but I always thought who knows when a feeling-up might happen

She made her sundowns of oat straw. Barefoot for church

Of course, mattresses, safes, and trunks

As one settler said to his spilled drink, “Oh, yes; I know you’re good but I can’t get
to you”

Names you could pass through on—Roane County, Calfkiller River

After I would flatten my hand hard for the medium-colored horse to eat her sugar cubes, I was thought a girly-girl

Ought to count herself lucky. First in the family to keep her teeth this long

You mean to tell me a perfectly normal twenty-five-year-old man died of a hen peck. Set into blood poisoning. You mean sepsis. Why’d they call him Fred if his name was John

What might become a setting

Each rooster to its tether

Family or no, didn’t that son of a bitch say I made his mashed potatoes soapy

Everybody had the good sense to steer clear of the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit revival tents. Though I liked to listen outside

How can I know where a thing is but not my damn self

Even the birds and things it will have dawned on when all around

mountains
wash away
mountains
wash away
mountains

_____
NOTE: The title of “Did the Universe Have a Beginning, and If So, What Happened Before Then?” comes from Stephen Hawking. Also, the poem lifts the following from Reverend Monroe Seals’ 1935 book History of White County:

“When the brightest aurora borealis ever known in this County arose, people could be heard praying in almost every part of the neighborhood.”
“She made her sundowns of oat straw.”
“As one settler said to his spilled drink, ‘Oh, yes; I know you’re good but I can’t get to you.’”

 

Carolyn Hembree‘s debut poetry collection, Skinny, came out from Kore Press in 2012. Her forthcoming book, Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague, won the 2015 Trio Award, selected by Neil Shepard, and the 2015 Marsh Hawk Press Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award, selected by Stephanie Strickland. The book will come out from Trio House Press in the spring. Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, Drunken Boat, The Journal, Poetry Daily, and other publications. She has received grants and fellowships from PEN, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and the Southern Arts Federation. Carolyn serves as poetry editor of Bayou Magazine.

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