Guest Poet – Lucy Simpson

Premonition of Billie Joe and the River

Photo by Lydia Selk

(based on the song, Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry)

I am dreaming of my Billie
He dives down
A dove to the water below
To follow where the child did go
Little rag doll limp thing
Head an onion bulb left in the sun

The river swallows his
White skin, his gold hair, his crooked teeth
The Tallahatchie is an easy woman
Made up of tears

Sundays we love after church
On Choctaw Ridge
Under the brightening elms
My midnight skin to his snow
Soft as a biscuit
Sweet as butter my boy

Down at the sawmill he won’t let them
He won’t let them
Always lazy, but he won’t let them
Talks them down in his sweet sing-song voice
Like David’s lyre on old King Saul

He works his peace, but it isn’t enough
None left over for his own madness
A whisper in the corn is all he has
My Billie my boy
Who sleeps, head in my lap

I try by and by to be his lyre
But I lost my tune in the gravel of a road
In the spit that got stopped up
When the baby came cold like a turnip

He is always lazy and slow
I suspect he will sink down softly
I will throw down honeysuckle
Some Sunday after church
Praise Jesus

Into the muddy green river
To the spirit of my Billie
My dead baby
And all the scaled fish below



Lucy Simpson’s poems have appeared in The Comstock Review, Poetry Bone and Word Wrights, among others. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two children, some reptiles, two cats, fish and quite a few houseplants. She conducts poetry workshops in Seattle public schools, writes on a news site, and takes care of her family.

Please visit to view more of her writing.



Photographer Lydia Selk lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. She is an artist and photographer who took the time to look for beauty and says that now beauty is all she can see.

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