On the Wings of a Dove

On the Wings of a Dove
by Jim Wayne Miller

Once, after he’d come back from Ohio,
he worked at road construction for a summer
back up on the Laurel and Ivy Rivers
in Madison. After work, instead of going
all the way to Asheville, he’d stop by
a bootlegger’s in Marshall, buy some white,
and drive to a place down on the French Broad River
below Redmon Dam. Pulling his car
down a sandy road, nosing it back
into the willows and sycamores so far
they closed around it, he’d sit there after sundown,
the smell of tar and sweat and asphalt in his clothes,
smoking and drinking white, listening to bluegrass
on the radio, watching the river, mountains and sky
run together in the coming dark.

Catfishermen built fires along the bank,
and over on the island, and hung their lanterns
out over the water. His troubles sat
right under his breastbone, black
as a treeful of starlings, all talking at once.
But when Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys
played Wait a Little Longer, Jesus, or Blue Moon
of Kentucky, and his mind throbbed and hummed
like pistons under the hood of a good truck
hauling his thoughts over a long open highway,
and the lights on the riverbank got in tune,
his mind turned into a whining sawblade
spinning so fast it grew invisible and quiet.

The starlings under his breastbone stopped talking.

Then white doves rose out of his ribcage
and flew out over the river toward the island.

      The Mountains Have Come Closer
     Appalachian Consortium Press, 1980

On the Wings of a Dove