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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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The Clay Eaters                                           



And Duck said:  When I’m sluggish and need pep

I take my spoon and basin to Paul’s Hill,

That road-bank filled with glory, the thrill

I been waiting for, the white, gray and pink,

With all those streaked yellow and green tints

Thrown into my eyes, better than any pill

My doctor could tell me to take and bill

Me, oh yes, Lord, makes me want to dance − step

It up and go, child; I have not slept

Better − sign from above − the good Lord’s will

Is working wonders; that business, the spill

Over thing, that eating clay’s a sure bet

For constipation?  Why, I can just take

It with my cup of tomato wine filled

To the brim – better − hush your mouth − my ills,

Gone − melts in my soul like chocolate.


She’d come to Paul’s Hill with Minnie Burch, two

Prospectors out to spoon porcelain clay,

Then trudge back to my father’s homeplace turned

Tenant house − lived with Percy Bolling who

Would not be seen digging for clay; he stayed

At his landlord’s place, he would say, to burn

The wood the fireplace warmed; he’d spit and chew

Tobacco, keep the woodstove hot to say

The oven’s set, when the duo returned

With the clay they’d bake into marbles new

As magpies collecting shiny objects.

The word pica?   They neither cared nor learned.


                                      -Shelby Stephenson




Dog Food                              




My father bought his dog food by the ton,

And stored it dry inside the gradin-room.

He would request the miller, Mule City Feeds,

To grind up smelly bags full of fish-meal,

A blend of fish, bones, offal:  the packhouse

Would wreak a withering, lingering souse

Of curing bright-leaf tobacco wrappers.

I could hear the sound-wave the food-lappers

Created, their tongues slurping runny mix

The trough the dog-yard held, the fox-dogs fixed

Like rippling muscles along the kennel,

The wall tied with wiry strands where fennels

Formed a hedge to give the hounds Nature’s shade.

Ginger, Bette, Bing, Rock, Sing − Lemonade!


                                       -Shelby Stephenson 






            for Duck Bolling




I picture her married to Percy Bolling,

Almost all over him as she herself

Filled out every place she stood like shelves

Of human flesh set on Shake & Giggling.

If you asked her – How’s your tomato wine –

She was already in the row, the green

Tomatoes turning ripe slightly, her keen,

Caressing presence entangling a vine

She’d drag down the middle of one long row –

That was enough, that singular field,

To make me happy; “Peace in the Valley”

I’d start; her hum, as if part of her toes,

She’d interrupt:  “Shub, sing that song for me

One more time − oh – what sweet society!”


                                   -Shelby Stephenson