Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Molly in a Red Wig Plays a Fiddle”

Book Excerpt: In the Backhoe’s Shadow

Molly in a Red Wig Plays a Fiddle

Molly asks me take the hanging guitar
held suspended from its two-prong hook screwed
to the wall. The guitar is her brother’s,
custom-made in Viet Nam, a body
brown as roux; its head and neck completely
filigreed with inlayed nacre. Hank is
working as a lawyer in Saigon. At first, I
close my eyes and let my searching fingers
find the old positions as in rhythm
I start strumming one four five. She never
names the tunes she plays, just calls them “old ones,”
Gaelic melodies through Appalachian
ache discovered by a West Coast woman
travelled more than I will ever travel.
“Do you know some Hank?” she asks me. Which ol’
Hank, I think, your brother whose guitar I’m
chording now or everybody’s Hank? I
smile and nod; I wonder which of them she’ll
draw, “I Saw the Light,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart”? No,
neither one will fit tonight. She settles
on a plaintive “I’m So Lonesome, I Could
Cry,” and I am watching Molly’s bow; she
never counts, her timing shifts for feeling,
she keeps playing ‘til imagined dancers
drop, and neither of us knows the lyrics
front to back; they’re just familiar lonesome
lines the other guests forgot the words to,
first duet, too blue, October evening.

“Molly in a Red Wig Plays a Fiddle”

Copyright © 2022 by Thomas Alan Holmes. All rights reserved. A native Alabamian, Thomas Alan Holmes spent many years on the staff of The Black Warrior Review while completing his graduate degrees at the University of Alabama. His poems have appeared in such journals as Louisiana Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Connecticut Review, Appalachian Heritage, Blue Mesa Review, Still: The Journal, and Appalachian Journal. He is a professor of English at East Tennessee State University. In the Backhoe’s Shadow is his first collection of poetry.

Tagged: , ,