Monday, March 9, 2009

[Tour] The Interim - Knoxville

For a day where nothing happened, a LOT has happened.

Woke up bright and early. 9 in the morning. Before too long, Frank, Bernard, and I were headed to Loretta Lynn's Buffet (she comes there to eat sometimes, they say). Now, I'm ashamed to admit this, but I had absolutely no idea who she was at all until last year. Danny Miller told me about her, and Regan and he were both kind of amazed I didn't know who she was.

If I didn't then, I do now. The place was decked out in all manner of Loretta Lynn memorabilia; tapestries, posters, a Crisco ad (discussion with Frank about how his family just called it lard), all kinds of stuff. But I don't want to get ahead of myself. The bacon was heaven. If ambrosia were a dead pig, this was it. There was also blueberry pancakes and eggs. But let's be honest, you know there's something earth-shattering going on when you mention blueberry pan

cakes in such a terse manner. Earth-shattering is what that bacon was.

We checked out the store some and looked at the merchandise with all the confederate flags on them (yay the South. A little bit like buying an LA Raiders sweatshirt isn't it?). Nothing else happened in the restaurant than that, besides Frank making us feel like asses by first making us honestly believe he was a little bit offended that we would ASSUME he knew who John Colbert was, and then listening to us spend a good 5 minutes explaining the show to him before he chimed in with more information than anyone ignorant of the show could possibly be aware of. Same ol same ol.

Oh. One more thing. Outside Loretta Lynn's is a giant buffalo, our totem animal. It actually looks directly down at the hotel we stayed at. Well, turns out the city we're in? Buffalo. Serendipity at it's best. What's more is that we had stopped (Frank's car AND Ricardos) two separate times, without planning it or knowing it, at this same location earlier in the trip. Ridiculous.

So we got on the road, talked a lot, and watched the country-side pass by; all hills and trees and confederate flags and warnings from God to make sure we don't go to hell.

We eventually made it to a Staples where I bought a super long stapler for making my own chapbooks from scratch to save money. It was Frank's idea, but don't tell him I'm not still claiming it as my own.

We eventually made it to Crowne Hotel. Frank had said it was "Crowne with an e" and for whatever reason, that made me think it was going to be rundown imitation of a real hotel sort of place. Not even close, this place is amazing. Apparently schools have money. My money, in some cases.

We all went to eat at Applebees, then back to our rooms. We

went to a bar called Library within the hotel, and Bernard and Bianca drank a bottle of wine and I drank a Shirley Temple (a man's man drink) and oh how we talked. About everything. One of my favorite moments

of this trip; I learned all about Bianca

being inducted, about Bernard's experiences with the Governor's school, opinions about writing, suggestions for reading (I took notes. Seriously) and everything in between.

We went up, then, to Bianca's room and talked a little more, watched terrible reality TV, and I wrote, while Bianca and Bernard worked on their chapbooks. It's now 3 in the morning and in the past 2 days I've had less than a full night's rest, grand total, but I present to you first Bianca's second day writing prompt and my poem, written today, only an hour ago:

Prompt: Create an Affrilachian (the region, not the poetry group) Genesis story. Include a regional hero. Reference James Weldon's "The Creation"" for an example.

The No. 4

"John Henry's woman heard he was dead,
She could not rest on her bed,
She got up at midnight, caught that No. 4 train,
"I am going where John Henry fell dead." -John Henry Folk Song

In the beginning there was God
we know this much
but there was also the devil
not quite at the start but close enough.
he filled the air like a hacking cough
simmered on the ocean and made it flat
slunk deep into the earth
and taught worms to eat the dead
and before too long he became bored
with breaking his own things,
and got to thinking.
the devil is nothing if not patient
so he waited quietly

before too long God became restless
created children in all his images
turned his face and made more
scattered most like pebbles onto his beach
tilted His head, squinted
then took another handful
pushed the first around,
placed stones in lonely places
matched them like a mosaic
and nearly satisfied saw a bareness
and planted black diamonds in the hills.
he told them about the devil
who was allowed to walk the earth
for his punishment was futility
and all was content for a while

like the scream of a fiddle
rising slow and firm
the devil came out to play
spent time unrushed
listened closely
listened especially closely to the women
who kept their burdens in their bellies
or when they were full on their backs
listened for so long man forgot about him
then waited still longer for women to follow

He came to them in a dream
his breath hot and wet in the air
his body serpentine and shining silver,
he stampeded with measureless speed
came to them first as inspiration and then incarnate
bowed before man as their servant.
the devil bore into the earth for them
hollowed the corpse of it maggot-like
just as he had before their time
but moving now where man gave him road
only followed their trails
for the illusion of being fettered to their will

The devil's plan was to grind clockwork slow
gorge himself on the silt and clay flesh of the land
allow man to see the apple red skin of things
while burrowing ever deeper, eating at the insides.
he had planned for so very long,
tested the waters until they were waters no more
now crawling in the womb of the mountains
where the world pulsed
when like lightning a black diamond fell
from where it lay trapped by great burden
falling now, every face of its maker glittering
like sunshine

the diamond hit the ground of the tunnel
folded out of itself like a cornhusk doll
lifted the hammer in its hand
and struck a fork into the tunnel
which rung as the the devil's first challenge,
scared the devil for the first time
for this man was not frightened himself
had already made much time in his journey
entering the heart of earth
pounding his hammer so hard that the devil was shaken
and for the first time forced into action

stone was beaten until it weapt
each tunnel sinking deeper and deeper into the earth
the devil laughing to himself at his speed.
he thought about those first dreams he had crept into
about how man still dreamt about him
when he hungered to move mountains
how this black rock of a man must dream of him now
even as he must trail behind the gaping wound
left in the devil's wake.

the devil had seen seasons grow old
and water beat stones to dust
had seen all things in all ways but was still
unprepared when he found himself falling
like a star into the fires
the only man who had never shown him fear
falling ahead of him, beating him even now
and laughing the way down.
He had beat the devil to the core
dug into the devil's path and made it a pitfall
all in the time it took the devil to gloat
and as the devil fell to his new home
dreamed not of the devil
dreamed instead, of being free
dreamed he held hands with his wife
never dreaming one thing
that up above on the shores of the land
she had caught the number 4
sharing as she always had in his burden
even now as she raced to catch her husband
in the fires

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