Friday, December 18, 2015 … Antiphon for the Ornery


(for Russ)


Emmanuel, I remember
all my young days,
and how my daddy
sang me appalachian carols –

that cherry tree bowed low down,
bowed low to the ground,

and Mary gathered cherries
while Joseph hung around, till he
lit off to – go,
tell it on the mountain.

And this one – how Jesus
the savior did come for to die
for poor ornery people
like you and like I …

He was plum ornery hisself,
my daddy, and proud of it,
talking about
how he was raised up
in the hollow
with the moonshine still.

But I reckon it was
the most amazing thing
I ever heard tell — how
this holy baby,
who could want for nothing,
came for the ornery.

Later, I grew up and people
sang this song all folk
or anthemy
and made it “ordinary.”
And I do believe you came
for the ordinary,

but privately, I wonder
as I wander out under the sky,
how you know
better than anyone

we all sometimes
are both of them things.

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4 Responses to Friday, December 18, 2015 … Antiphon for the Ornery

  1. rezrevres says:

    I too grew up in a region where the pronunciation of ornery folks stretched back hundreds of years to far distant roots, and my wife hails from the northern appalachians (Laurentians) where highland Scot and the archaic French of Brittany have created a unique millange, so we both thoroughly enjoyed your sentiment.. Thank you Maren.

  2. Maren says:

    I can hear the rhythms in his voice still and I wish somehow that television had not flattened all the uniqueness out of speech and made us so homogenous. Now you would think that just maybe that would help with prejudices…

  3. Get this one published, Maren. Send it to the New Yorker, or somewhere. Powerful.

  4. Maren says:

    Wish I was better at doing that. Thank you. And you, too, remember him, though his singing days were past. I remember when he was in the memory loss unit and people would hear the mountains in his speech and think he was a Southern Baptist. Proud Disciple of Christ, he would say, and Commie-pinko, too. That always stopped them.

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