Tuesday, August 21, 2012
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...
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,
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.
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.