Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Lily” and “October 13, 2006”

An unusual joint appearance at Nashville’s Scarritt-Bennett Center features paired poems—one each by Mitzi Cross and Malcolm Glass—on the same subject

Mitzi Cross and Malcolm Glass are married poets living in Clarksville, Tennessee. Cross is an award-winning poet, playwright, and photographer, whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals, art galleries, and juried exhibits across the mid-South. Glass is a writer and photographer who has published five books of poems and several textbooks, including Bone Love, In the Shadow of the Gourd, and Important Words. The two will appear together on May 24 at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville at 7 p.m.


By Mitzi Cross

Lily’s maple hands, soft as powdered sugar
raised all of Mother’s children.
Her smile was as bright as a broken shard of mirrored
glass gleaming in a field of wheat.

She parted the curtains down the middle
breaking morning light over our thread-bare
quilts. She was back-lit like a dream. Her hands rested
on high hips, waiting for us to stretch awake.

The kitchen perspired.
Her mirror image in the face
of the iron skillet, the black-
shine, sheened with hot oil. A dulled
drumming from her wooden spoon
against the ceramic bowl, stirring butter,
corn meal, sweet onions and buttermilk.
The batter bubbled slowly
like creamed lava across the sizzling skillet.

She told tales of a steamy place called New Orleans,
where she worked in Jules Alciatore’s kitchen
at The House of Antoine. She ran the tip
of a knife down the seam
of an oyster shell. Whispering, “secret-
recipe” and “Oysters Rockefeller.”
She minced young herbs of tarragon, parsley,
and chervil, celery leaves and green onions
plucked from the garden she planted.

Lily washed the loss of mother
out of our sweaty hair. She scrubbed soiled
nightgowns and tears; soaked mother’s
white handkerchiefs
stained with red etchings of cough.

She pulled clean sheets from the sun
snapping out wrinkles. Whips and wafts
of crushed lavender fall around us
like wings.

October 13, 2006 (for my father)

By Malcolm Glass

The new century slides into its first
Decade—months, days, and weeks blurred together
like a gentle hand smoothing dark feathers
down the back of the last po’ouli, nursed

into extinction. When you were alive
you might have watched one of these rare birds feed
in your back yard, cracking sunflower seeds,
hidden in that haven, held safe, to thrive

in your care. You might have written down
chickadee in your log, then looked again
to see a stranger. When you found him in
your books, you’d have a miracle: he’d flown

to your Florida sanctuary, thick
with staghorn ferns and orchids, like his home,
Haleakala, a volcano some

four thousand miles away. But that last bird
never flew. And I am left with these words,
a dream of salvation for our dying earth,

one hundred years from the day you were born.