Americana Rural

by Nancy Dillingham

c. 1930

Her daddy stands bespectacled
in his photograph
beside a piteous Standard Oil pump
Vulcan hardware, Hillside plows
and an incongruous bubble gum machine

ragged coat
heavy, rolled trousers
worn canvas shoes
yet proud in his dandy vest and watch fob
white shirt and tie

perhaps seeing beyond
the clutter and rubble
of his little country store
set in the red clay mud like stone

beyond the backbreaking debt
of unpaid loans and extended credit
to desperate neighbors

and all she remembers now
is the day she stole from him

Ready to close for the day
he laid his stained apron
on the counter
went to crank the old Model T

It was like poetry
watching the shiny pieces of candy
multicolored as marbles
fall into the upright umbrella

As she stumbled
into the car beside him
the ungainly umbrella tumbled over
spilling a stream of cellophane
on the seat and floorboard

He turned and looked at her—
still there, that twinkle in his eye
for a favorite if impulsive child—
and all he could say was
I don’t mind you taking a piece or two
but next time don’t take it all

His battered beret blurred
before her fall

c. 1940

It was like poetry
the way he moved
his finely formed hand
that Sunday morning
smoking in the front seat
of the car

first to his mouth
then dangling it elegantly
out the open window
carelessly flicking away the ashes
from his cigarette

his hand floating in the wind
delicate as a dancer’s

He drove the borrowed car
over the state line
She was seventeen
he, twenty-five

They eloped
to South Carolina
sand running
in the warm April sun

shining like the diamond
she would never have
her future spreading out before her
like an umbrella opening

Nancy Dillingham is a sixth-generation Dillingham from Big Ivy. Her poetry has appeared in the Asheville Poetry Review and other journals. She has also published short stories and commentary in Raleigh’s News & Observer and Asheville's Mountain Xpress. Her newest collection of poems is Home from March Street Press.

About Americana Rural — This poem was inspired by a photo of my grandfather, Horace Greeley McLean, in front of his store in Flat Creek, and my mother’s stories about “staying in the store” with him and eloping with my father. It was written utilizing dreams, memory, and photographs.