Reno and Smiley in Verona by Frederick Wilbur

Reno and Smiley in Verona

 

Walking not far from Juliet’s graffitied house,
a window gives its music to the alley below—
Appalachian spring tripping on love.
I hear I Wouldn’t Change You if I Could.

                                  *

An unintended plot comes back to me—
how fifty years ago we drove south to Stuart’s Draft
to hear Reno and Smiley play, a hay wagon
above us, haloed by the setting sun, singing
their country’s tunes.
                       Don’s banjo sowed the seeds
of bluegrass with Lee’s March
                       and Don’t Let Your Sweet Love Die.

Have you forgotten the sparkling notes,
those fireworks in the early evening chill,
how you eased your body, blond hair a comet,
closer to mine?
                       Perhaps you remember it differently,
though music makes memory easy,
                                              heard with eyes closed.

You knew verse and verse, but were not a snake handler,
had a rural faith in love’s wonders, a peeking tattoo.
You drank convenience store beer and looked
for heartache under every boyfriend’s pillow.

Would I recognize your glittering smile
among the pomegranates, apricots, at the grocery?
Do I have the right to ask? Ours was not the tragedy
it could have been
                       though maybe you have since died,
 in our hometown.

In Spring Hill Cemetery, in unlikely Lynchburg,
where Don rests, winter jasmine blooms along the fence
in constellations. The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,
plays in my head. I remember feeling the feud
of my desires, his granite slab silent.

                                  *

I turn toward the Via Stella with the honeybee’s
instinct for the swinging sun and it may be this evening song
which holds me back from old-age dementia,
                       my star-crossed forgetting. You
are still the girl I left behind.


Frederick Wilbur
Frederick Wilbur is an architectural woodcarver and has written three books on the subject. His fourth book is a volume of poetry, AS PUS FLOATS THE SPLINTER OUT, to be available in Spring 2018. In spare times he paints clouds amongst trees.


Featured image: Banjo by Elaine Faith. CC license.

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