Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Suite Mystic

My excuses for being over a week late are true but boring, so let's just get to it... with "it" being the first third (parts 1 and 2) of this five-part Suite Mystic, devoted to my mother's family past and near present, and to the daily life of white folks and black on the Spivey's Georgia farm--which we visited regularly in the late Forties and early Fifties.

The narrator of these five poems is/is not me. But, for whatever reason, the writer (me, yes) chose to impose partial form on these free verse pieces. Three of them attempt this by requiring a fixed number of syllables in each line, while still giving up traditional rhymes and repeating rhythms; the fourth and fifth take on other forms, even a bit of rhyme. But, standard or free, the five must add up to something worth a reader's investment of time--a small truth, an interesting lie, or something in between...

Suite Mystic

1. Stories

History is lies told by the living
To appease the dead; memories falter,
So flawed tales slip in. My Spivey stories
Lay a-moldering 50 years and more…

Southcentral Georgia after the War—not
The Civil War but World War II, before
America’s true colors appeared, un-
Civilly: Whites and Blacks, Reds and the Blues.
Coming to Mystic as well: three hundred
Souls wilting at a country crossroads--no
Town--a dusty six miles from Ocilla,
With Fitzgerald a good 20 more; but
My mother's home, the family's acres
Of corn and livestock and leaf tobacco.
Last fragment of the Spivey plantation,
Antebellum time of old “Boss Cotton”
And a hundred-odd slaves--house, yard, and fields
Put to the torch in that War between States,
Farm shriveling as Reconstruction failed;
Land whittled down in the Thirties… Now this
Out-of-time retreat to a futile past.

2. Scenes

Languid live-oaks in silhouette. Green-skinned
Elephant’s-ear plants flapping in the breeze.
Scattered pecan shells crackling underfoot.
Off-white columns, their paint cracked, wood mildewed—
Old pillars of the “Big House” that hold up
Nothing now. Yet the pineboard porch and worn-
Down farmhouse lean toward them for support.
Days when I dare to, I can balance, cling
With toe-tips and fingers, lean in, and edge
Slowly around each curving bulk of white
On a half-inch ledge just at porch level.
I wander the musty house and grassless
Yard in my pale bare feet—sweet sensation
For a city boy--and sit on clay dirt
To play Mumbly-Peg, elbow, knee, and toe-
To-toe with colored boys my age, flipping
The sharp penknives they are free to carry.

Sharecropper kids—the sons of black farmers—
And me: from noon on, we chase the sun down
Dirt roads, through dust as soft and slick as silk,
And light like ripe corn. We guzzle ice-cold
Dr. Peppers at the one gas station,
Carefully sliding them out through water-
Chilled metal chambers, the locks and flooded
Ways of that battered pop-bottle canal.
We poke under porch steps, prodding the blue-
Tick hounds that dream live possums moving slow.
And sometimes we light firecrackers, tiny
Dragon-snappers we toss over the nubbed
Wire fence of silver arches—exploding
In dust-puffs that rile the cemetary's
Empty silence, hanging in that burst air

                 I am eight and colorless.

* * * * *
Part 3, titled "Shucks," will be up in a few days... if I master computer and meds.

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