Red Bluff, 2020

by Jo Taylor


It was a bizarre place to share
a Thanksgiving meal – off the old Red Bluff Road,
past the little red-brick church atop the hill, then down
the dirt path along the barbed-wire fence, over which
lay discarded artificial roses and broken pots and dreams.

                                                                     In silence,
we arranged poinsettias on the pebbles enclosed
in granite coping, careful not to disturb the peace,
and arranged our chairs to ward off November winds
moving across the open field like an ostrich on the
savanna. Hungry from early-morning preparations
and the several-hundred-miles to get to this sacred spot,
we spread across the tailgate the tubs of fried chicken,
the mayonnaise-slathered pineapple sandwiches,
the paprika-dotted deviled eggs, and then added potato
pies and pecan pies, golden in mid-day sun.

We spoke of COVID, the election, our forebearers resting
at our feet. We acknowledged our year’s shortcomings
to the pines, the spirits and each other, and vowed life
changes that would grow legacies left latent heretofore
in this boneyard. We offered up poems and gave gifts
and strolled amongst the dead, calling out names
and speculating on lives edited in etchings and epitaphs,
markings and dates.

Then we gathered our things and held there
                                                        another minute,
glancing one more time at the hallowed ground,
the dust to which we will soon return, the dirt
that will house our own bones.



Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it, her major themes focused on family, place, and faith. She says she writes to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in The Ekphrastic ReviewSilver Birch Press, Poets Online, Literary North, Heart of Flesh Literary JournalOne Art, and Snapdragon:  A Journal of Art and Healing. Sally Lelong is a visual storyteller working in a variety of media that lend themselves to use in a conceptual framework. She lives and works in New York, and routinely exhibits her work in a variety of settings from print to thematic installations to street art.



3 thoughts on “Red Bluff, 2020

  1. This piece by Jo Taylor is absolutely delightful. I’ve just walked through autumn with her. This poem is benchmark setting.

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  2. JO: MY SWEET FRIEND, I CAN SEE EVERY BIT OF YOUR DESCRIPTIVE THANKSGIVING; AND I’M SURE YOU WERE RIGHT THERE DOING IT WITH GREAT DETAIL. I VISITED THE GRAVE SITE FOR MY DEARLY BELOVED, DAVID (WHOSE 91ST BIRTHDAY WAS YESTERDAY IN HEAVEN)– AND I DID NOT WANT TO PULL MYSELF AWAY. I HAD MY SMILE, AS HE ALWAYS SAID, DON’T PLACE ANY PLASTIC ARTIFICIAL FLOWERS ON MY GRAVE PLEASE! SO, EACH TIME I GO…I MAKE SURE I HAVE SOMETHING LIVE. YESTERDAY WAS, PIECES OF FRESH CEDAR PULLED FROM OUR YARD, ROSEMARY STEMS FROM OUR BUSH; AND HOLLY BUSH STEMS, WITH RED BERRIES; TUCKED IN A SWEET FASE; AND PLACED WITH LOVING CARE, NO MATTER HOW LONG THEY LAST…OR BLOW AWAY, OR WHATEVER. IT WAS THE TIME SPENT THERE, AND THE LOVING THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES WHICH I STILL HAVE SO FRESH IN MY SPIRIT AND DEEP IN MY SOUL. TRULY MY SOULMATE; AND MISS HIM SO MUCH! BUT MY GREATEST JOY WAS TO SMILE AND KNOW HE IS IN HEAVEN “WAITING FOR ME TO BE RIGHT BEHIND HIM” WERE HIS WORDS! MY SISTER AND I TOURED THE ENTIRE GRAVEYARD TODAY, WE SAID HOW MUCH WE ENJOYED OUR FOND MEMORIES OF THE DIFFERENT FAMILIES; ALL THE PLAY TIMES WE SHARED WITH SOME, AND THE FUN
    THINKGS WE COULD SMILE ABOUT, AND TALK ABOUT. I PERSONALLY FEEL, THAT WE ALL SHOULD VISIT THAT MEMORY LANE BEFORE WE GET PASSED THE POINT OF MAKING THE TRIP. IT IS REFRESHING FOR THE SOUL, AND REVIVES THE SPIRT WITHIN YOU TO MAKE YOU PUSH FORWARD, AND TO HOPE THAT SOMEDAY SOME ONE WILL VISIT YOUR GRAVESITE, WITH COMMENTS, OR QUESTIONS; OR JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE FOND ENOUGH OF YOU, OR LOVED YOU ENOUGH TO APPRECIATE WHAT YOU MEANT TO THEM IN THEIR LIFETIME SPENT KNOWING YOU. I KNOW YOU MISS TEACHING; BUT KEEP ON WRITING. YOUR WORK IS DELIGHTFUL! LOVE YOUR FRIEND… JO CARTER HARBIN…. 1-30-2021

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