Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Hymn of Departures”

Jeff Daniel Marion, a native of Rogersville, taught English and creative writing at Carson-Newman University for over thirty-five years. There he was poet-in-residence, director of the Appalachian Center, and editor of Mossy Creek Reader. He has published nine poetry collections, four chapbooks, and a children’s book, Hello, Crow. His poems have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, and Appalachian Heritage, among others, and his honors include the 2002 Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature Award, the 2005 Educational Service to Appalachia Award, and the 2011 James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South. In 2007 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. Marion lives in Knoxville with his wife, poet and editor Linda Parsons Marion.

Hymn of Departures

Who will remember those sonorous voices
echoing through the cathedral of arrivals
and departures? Isn’t the memory of voices
first to go? Let us name a patron saint
of disappearing sounds, call him time’s
Saint Echo, let him announce, “Tennessean
arriving on Track Nine; L&N departing Track Ten.
Last call, All aboard.” Let him whisper
the litany of typewriter keys, their clack-clack
another train on a different track, the screech
of a screen door backflung in summer,
the ring of an old telephone at midnight,
the whisper of a fountain pen on paper.
Let’s hear it for all of the family names no longer
heard but engraved in stone: Verdie, Clara,
Eloise, Kizzie, Ina. Names for you,
O Saint Echo, receive them well and say them
back to us, O women of great recipes
handed down through generations
like a seasoned cast-iron skillet darkened
with memories of all it once held,
from cornbread to the sizzle of fresh sausage
and tenderloin on hog-killing day, first
hard cold announcing winter when the sounds
of axe and gunshot ring for miles or the long,
low lonesome call of a distant train departing,
its haunting cry one of far away and gone
and arriving who knows where.