The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

Lisa Kosow :: Jerry Lee Lewis Pushes a Piano into the Ocean :: Three Poems ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in the Blue Ridge mountains in southwestern Virginia, and those mountains are still imprinted on my soul—I find it necessary to visit and hike there every year. My father raised me on bluegrass music, which he discovered there. I also lived in Tennessee in my early years, and I’ve made sure to remain safely, though barely, south of the Mason Dixon line in Maryland for most of my life. My husband is part Cajun, an authentic Boudreaux (he can tell the jokes). I’ve spent much time rambling, seeking out jazz, bluegrass, and southern rock in the cities where he has taught; New Orleans, LA, Richmond, VA, and currently Gulfport, FL, which is now my second home.

Jerry Lee Lewis Pushes a Piano into the Ocean

A silver dollar moon lights this crooked shore where a crowd, laughing, shouting, shuffling feet, trickles into the club.  Jerry Lee behind a curtain presses a black piano key, then a white one,  rattles few bars, then notes cascade, Whole Lotta Shaking, he takes a swig of whiskey, then another, curses the ceiling, the floor, the curtain, the crowd, the piano—so sharp, so flat.  He squares himself behind it, pushes with all his Louisiana might, it rumbles down the steps of the stage, clattering cacophony, shaking, breaking keys. Distraught guttural strings cry as he rolls it out the door onto the sidewalk.  He stands and plays a wicked jig, a few bars of a hymn, distorted, tinny, out of tune like his curses that wail over the shore, get lost in the breathless sky. He heaves the piano over shells and sand, into receding tides, his mission to destroy the Devil’s songs, to rescue fallen angels.  Earth tilts, waves lick at piano legs, and with one last shove keys, gut strings, cheap varnished wood all collapse into the gaping mouth of the sea.  A colossus, he strides back up the beach to the bar, bellowing into the manager’s shocked face, “Now get me a goddamn piano!”

Red Rambling RoseSpring Song

(after a painting by Alma Thomas, an artist born in Columbus, GA, then lived and worked in Washington, DC)

flicked, flown, flowery
confetti, puzzle pieces that
don’t quite fit

red lines across a map
beautiful, broken
notions in your head

crimson flickered shards
glass shredding ordinary light
terrestrial hues, equinox orbits

red song spring
rises, encompasses
curved fragments lit on a surface

of wall, all
Sunday and every floral
afternoon for rambling

Great Blue Heron

stands motionless, waiting,
staring into shallow water
as if nothing else existed—
not the fishermen lining the shore,
not the waves rolling in and out
not the single cottony cloud
hanging in west Florida sky,
and not me, watching
the heron’s watching,
trying to match stillness
to stillness while breathing
light breaths of salt-tinged air.

I take a slow step
toes just touching water.
She doesn’t move.
Wet sand encloses my feet,
I aim my eyes on the ripple
As the heron watches.

Time slows,
a green watery veil
magnifies each silvery fish scale
each mussel shell shimmer
each flowing branch of redweed.
The heron’s bill jabs
and comes up with nothing
over and over.
Then one quick flick
and she spears a fish.
It’s as if I can taste the slick
cool scales, sea salty,
feel the sleek body slide down
my throat, heron throat
while the day rolls out like tides.