blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Mrs. Cannon Passes the Parthenon on Her Way Home from Work

The tree limbs are black and bare. They spider the concrete aggregate         
of Nashville’s Parthenon. Mrs. Cannon’s limo floats
down West End. A black bear
concrete, one paw raised as if hailing a cab, is one of the city’s seven
wonders. She forgets the others.
               The creek in her front yard
is cold, rocky, gargles on
past the governor’s mansion next door. When spring comes, its water
will run clear, clean fingers through waves of sweetgrass. Ophelia.
She is Sarah Ophelia Cannon. The battered
straw bonnet, dangling $1.98 price tag, cheap ruffled dress, and scuffed Mary Janes,
left behind at the studio. Her breast prostheses
                                                                             itch, shift. The horizontals,
none of them
at the Parthenon are straight.
A slight curve in the middle gives the illusion of perfection. And the verticals,
the Doric columns, bulge widest a third of the way up.
                                                                                        Cancer. Hee Haw and How-dee.
Grinder’s Switch didn’t have cancer. No Watergate nor Vietnam neither.

But Minnie Pearl has cancer. Hard
and unforgiving as any Opry bench.
Fingering her brooch, Mrs. Cannon ponders
                                                                      the science of fundraising.
They’re gilding Athena. Gold, forty feet of her, will tower just inside
the heaviest bronze doors in the world. The Parthenon experience
will be complete. Minnie’s still looking
for a “feller.” Mrs. Cannon’s husband likes cigars.
The Cancer Ball. Old money can dig deep. She wants to
lie down when she gets home
                                                 and dream about the best jokes she ever told.
Waiting, full-length and formal, her blue silk, the matching satin shoes.  

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