Two Poems by Rebecca Baggett

A poet from Athens, Georgia, offers verses filled with beautiful visions about the power of conversation — both unearthly and earthly.

Hanging With Jesus Downtown

The men slump on benches
anchored to the sidewalk,
pass a cigarette hand to hand.
One mutters, staring at the shop window
before him; another gestures wildly,
his dark skin filmy, gray-streaked,
eyes wide beneath the grimy stocking cap
pulled low. I hesitate, expecting
catcalls, questions I can’t comprehend,
appeals for a lighter or spare change.

Feed my sheep.
I imagine
him sitting on the low wall
built around a convicted sapling,
offering coffee and burgers from the Grill,
greasy and thick inside steaming paper,
offering, yes, even bright cellophane packets
of cigarettes. He’d smoke with them,
call them by the names
their mothers gave them —
DeMarcus and Antonio and James —
and when at last he rose
to stroll down College Avenue,
they would follow without a backward glance
at the bench or the bar or the window
or me.


Old country folks say it of someone
who jabbers, babbles non-stop, no discretion
at all, someone who won’t stop till she’s
spilled the whole bag of beans,
or the old man with the long dull story
everyone’s heard a hundred times,
cut off only when you walk away, brisk
and brusque, but saved.

My jaw locks,
tight as a bank vault, without my asking.
It knows how much I could spill if
it let me, it’s wary of how I might go on
if it unclenched. Wailing, maybe, like a coyote
on a dark night, or that sobbing sound
some creature makes deep in the forest,
one that raises the hair on your neck,
tells you a story you’d rather not know.


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