I hear him wailing. My hound dog and I
have taken to walking through the
neighborhood as of late.
He has discovered that he is more of
a city dog than anything else. He no
longer has the patience or the guts
for the woods. His ears will pick up
the noise of a hawk or another predator
perhaps even the most dangerous
caterpillar tearing up another
hill to build a McMansion, and
he will freeze, poor little guy.
But he loves walking around the
neighborhood. He puffs out his
spotted chest and holds his head
high like he’s the mayor of Hill City.
Today, we are rounding the corner of a
block that was, until a few weeks ago,
a community garden. Now there is a brand new
security fence and where there were plots
that in summers past held all the homegrown
tomatoes of your summer dreams, there is now
only hay, covering everything. The Garden’s sign
is even down. It is from the front steps of the
Missionary Baptist Church across the street
that I hear him. Echoeing low like a lament
moving over the hay-covered ex-garden. I catch
words like “my sin” and “forgive” and “mercy”
and then I see him. Suspenders and a knit shirt
and too big jeans, white hair that has not seen a day
without pomade since the first time he saw
Jerry Lee Lewis on Television. And work boots
Though I bet it hurts when he tries to lift much.
He reminds me of the old tobacco men from home,
the old miners I’d see in Foxfire or on a drive
to Pikeville. I wonder what makes him cry, wail,
confess and plead. I doubt it is this forgotten
garden, but I’d wager there is a tree of knowledge
and good and evil involved. I’d wager an Augustinian
pluck of a pear, or perhaps a blonde hair turned
silver turned to dust that he hopes to catch a glimpse
of again one day. Have mercy. He kneels there on the
steps, a living document of this neighborhood of little
houses making way as the pomade glean is buffed out.
For a moment, my little mayor-dog stops and listens
to the wailing, but he does not howl along. This does
not make him shiver like a hawk would. Natural in the
city, this wailing prayer is the sound of the world.
Photo Credit: Lisa Hale Gilvin