Tube Rose

In spats and monocle Mr. Goober danced
across the blue tin of a Planter's peanut can.
Aunt Edna's rocker kept a cradle's cadence
while the radio evangelist ranted,

"Repent your sins or pay the fiery price."
This was Griffin, Georgia, the Fifties,
a farm with acres of snakes and corn.
Her voice would waver, "Silver pins and golden

needles will not mend this heart of mine."
She'd spit a golden ambeer into the cess
of her rusting can and never missed
while Ike was ailing in the White House

and snuff was cheap. The top hat and cane
of the jigging peanut man said "undertaker"
to any child in Spalding County. "The Rapture
is close at hand," the media preacher crooned.

"If your snuff's too strong it's wrong,
get Tube Rose, mild Tube Rose," she cooed
to mourning birds courting beyond the shrubs.
A dew of filthy honey on her lip eclipsed

the waning moon, and she spoke again
of summer and longing and love
with a lonesome voice that never
lured from cover even a country dove.

R.T. Smith is the author of Messenger (LSU Press), Trespasser (LSU Press), Hunter-Gatherer (Livingston Press), Cardinal Heart (Livingston Press) and Split the Lark (Salmon Poetry). Forthcoming books include Brightwood (LSU Press). His work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, The Atlanta Review and The Irish Times. Smith edits Shenandoah.