The only way to Tennessee from Calvin's sucks.
Flat, hot, empty, and the bumpity tar-filled cracks
in the I-40 concrete will ruin your ass for days.
So Joe spent a few at the family homestead
thirty miles north of Memphis.
At least it used to be thirty miles north.
Even Uncle Carlton had sold most of his land
The barn was gone, Mama and Pappa's house
was remodeled and modern,
the whole place just a shadow of memories.
Joe sighed for the crick where he and Sam used to swim;
For the cow pies they blew up with firecrackers,
the vines they used to swing on,
the midnight 'possum huntin',
and all the plans they'd made back then.
Said, "Ya can't go home, cause it ain't there."
Uncle Carlton and aunt Wilma
were glad to see him, though,
it had been a while,
wondered where he went to church.
On Saturday mornin' Joe kissed 'em goodbye,
just shrugged his shoulders.
He sure wished there was a way to miss Nashville,
but figured he'd get to stop and see Vol.
The ride East from Memphis
is a little easier on the soul
than going west.
But still pretty damn flat.
Across the Tennessee river,
The ground begins to roll up a little bit,
and then more quickly to Dixon
and he took the shortcut south on highway 7
to Columbia and Springhill.
Passed in front of the Saturn Plant
takin' up a mile or more of good farm land,
turned left to Burwood and Vol's house.
"Hey, Bro! How's my favorite wizard?"
"Joe! Damn, damn, damn!
Come on in...
Kimberly! Guess who's here?"
And the rest of the week listenin'
to how hard it is, bein' a wizard.
"Just can't get a grip on these damn spells!...
I try to figure it all out.
I line the pond so it'll hold water,
but it just quits rainin'.
I'm writin' something, lean back
to think of what I'm gonna say next,
and make my pen disappear.
I don't leave my chair, but it's gone.
Save my money for something I want,
but only succeed in makin' something I need
but I keep tryin."
Joe told Vol all about crazy Sam winnin' the lottery,
livin' in that treehouse over in Shady Grove,
Taos, Amarillo, Louise, and Irene,
had a good laugh about Calvin,
and they cried in their beer about
Mamma's and Papa's.
There was a little magic, though,
listening' to some B.B, King and Muddy Waters on CD.
Before Joe left, Vol took him out to his shop,
found a carving of a wood spirit
he'd done in an old piece of oak burl,
said, " he'll keep an eye on ya'll for me,
till we get out there, man;
hang 'im up in Sam's tree."
By Thursday, Joe reckoned Kimberly's cooking'
would make him fat, so he better high-tail it,
and looking' at the pretty little bridge
Vol'd built over the dry hole he called a pond
was more than he could take.
But what really made Joe happy
was finding' out about the new bypass;
wasn't gonna have to set a foot in Nashville.
Joe was a little uneasy
when he left Vol's, thought,
"Three hours to Knoxville,
three more to Sam's, two hours for breaks,
too far for one day."
Then rain on the Cumberland Plateau.
By the time Joe dug the rain suit
from the bottom of his saddlebag,
he was wet to the bone
with no shelter in sight,
and his underwear was all bunched up,
The next underpass was already occupied;
a small van with a flat tire, just sittin' there.
But the side door slid open
and two young faces spread some sunshine,
smiling at his drippin' nose and chin,
"Come on in, I'm Matt, she's Shannon
and the baby's name is Fate,"
he said, handing Joe a wad of paper towels.
When he got the rain out of his eyes,
and could see again,
Joe just sighed and smiled back..
"Just out for a day trip, see some country,
now this flat, got a spare, no jack," laughed Shannon,
breakin' out some bottled raspberry tea and Ding Dongs.
The rain just got worse,
looked like the day was shot,
so they settled down to small talkin',
watchin' the baby play
while Matt got a pen and paper wrote:
"And after all the feelings go
I see I still love you so
I just thought I'd let you know
now that everything's OK
and you are on your way
back from where you came
she said with pain in her heart
it was there from the start
now I know why everything
but it's our own world we paint
and I want you,
I want fluorescence
every day and night,
for the rest of my life
open your eyes."
But by the time he was done,
everyone was tired
(Matt wrote the poem)