Small-town Gossip

 Marianne Worthington

The best place to hear it? Not in the beauty shop, that warren
of backcombing and flaming hearsay; nor the church house

where prayer requests stand in for scandal. Do not listen
for it in the garages where men gather by twos and threes

gripping their coffee cups and old grudges; or in the Dollar
Store where old couples block the aisles comparing

ailments and dog-tired young women run in for cheap diapers
while their men wait for them, smoking, in idling cars.

 You won’t hear it the grocery store either, as aggravated
shoppers fume into their phones while stalking the aisles.

The best place—just listen—the best place is before good
daylight when the mockingbird practices his scales,

when the redbirds wake and cheer each other to the day’s work:
chipping seed, ignoring the propaganda of jaybirds and crows.

Marianne Worthington is a poet, editor, and co-founder of Still: The Journal, an online magazine publishing literary, visual, and musical artists with ties to the Appalachian region since 2009. She received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Appalachian Book of the Year Award for her poetry collection, Larger Bodies Than Mine. She has edited four literary anthologies, most recently, Piano in a Sycamore: Writing Lessons from the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, co-edited with Silas House. Her work has appeared in Oxford American, CALYX, Grist, Shenandoah, The Louisville Review, Southern Poetry Anthology, and Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance, among other places. She lives, writes, and teaches in southeast Kentucky.