The Kephart Crow

Pleased to unveil a new poem of mine, “The Kephart Crow,” in the latest edition of The Canopic Jar, an excellent literary zine and press that I’ve been fortunate enough to contribute to over the years, in various guises. Thank you to Phil Rice for including this one. Formerly based in the Nashville area, Canopic Jar is now based in the Chicago area, which is my direction in reverse, ironically. Rooted in the Smokies, this piece is part of a series of writings “triggered by sound”. Hope you enjoy it, and as always, thanks for the read, right here and/or below.

The Kephart Crow

Part One

In my travels, I sometimes seek out markers
Paying tribute to those who have made my path lighter
Better trod, or more manageable, quietly saying thanks.

On the north side of Chicago, the graves reflect the city
Sullivan design, a baseball for the ages, and Mr. Cub Himself
Three signers rest in Boston, Paul Revere still riding through
The granary, headstones leaning and tumbling like Halloween

Across the south unknown soldiers from Stone River to Shiloh
Line up in a row, begging silence for the day, lambs
Underneath the stars, in the center of the desert sands
The gilded palace of sin, Cap Rock aglow with fire

Once in Winchester, before a gig, I walked to the Cathedral,
Humming the long forgotten pop hit by the New Vaudevillians,
Paying homage to Jane Austen, a woman ahead of her time
Who would be referred to as a bad ass in today’s language

At Stratford Upon Avon, I stood in line with the young girls
Weeping for the bard, who passed centuries before and is buried
Elsewhere in the village, like Elvis’ twin brother Jessie Garon
Lying figuratively but not literally next to the King in Memphis town

In Liverpool, the black cab driver took a detour on my behalf
Paying homage to Stu Sutcliffe, so young, without a chance
To fully hone his craft, marry his beloved or have children of his own
Light rain fell over guitar picks, close to the Casbah, far from fair

In Palm Springs, it took awhile to find Sinatra, among anonymous
Movie stars, uncharacteristically modest, nothing extra for the Chairman
A few rows over there was William Powell, I wished I’d brought
A martini, a fedora, or at least a crooked knowing smile

Part Two

In my travels to Bryson City,  I sought out Horace Kephart,
Saver of the Smokies, following my GPS through an old growth
Forest of unpaved streets, right left right, spinning through time

A small dog sat down in the middle of the street, unmoving
I stopped the car, opening the door and watched him stroll on by
A series of trailer homes on blocks, spruced up and decorated,
A yard sign honoring a recent high school grad

Two more turns, open gates, chain links, bulletin board
Diagrams and numbers, lettered rows, D8, calculating
Up the steps, moving slowly, looking and looming for
The boulder straight ahead, strewn with coins and flowers

A crow called in the quiet. I knew it was a crow because
My son was a birder when he was little and we would visit
Wild places and read about the birds and he’d teach me too
Get back to the pure place where possibility still lives

Just like Kephart.  Looking for a better way.  Escape routes.
So many have been closed, people spinning on the wheel
A losing deal, grasping for the light and a chance to steal
A few minutes of self on a two-day weekend, exhausted

Down in the town, trucks roared past souvenir shops,
Gas stations and burger kings, not a bit like 1931 when
He was laid to rest.  Even the mountains were different
Blue and laced with clouds, not sepia or black and white

As I bent over to thank the boulder, or Horace, dependent,
The crow stopped crowing.  The autumn sun turned the sky gold
The cars quit riding through the town and the stillness returned
If only for a moment.  All my friends had disappeared.

Published by Doug Hoekstra

Father, wordsmith, musician, creative.

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