“My South” by Wendy Carlisle
On the left, the Atchafalaya, so black, so burnt inside,
silent as a pot. Down here, my lips equal silt and common bliss.
Down here, I carry my grave folded in my pocket,
a cardboard hunger, a box and shards.
The woman beside me in this food line wears, a skintight skirt,
has a back-door man. Down south we have the right
to costumes and gossip, to numbers and pawn.
Down south, we observe the bendable rules that stand in for bone.
Below Arkansas, we have a chicory bias.
Low blues and Jolie Blonde are the national anthems.
Down here, I learned acoustics from Professor Longhair, religion
from the Mardi Gras Gods, persistence in February’s saxophone wind.
Like Buckwheat and the Meters, I adjust my heartbeat to the pulse of the tune.
Despite the hunter, I am the snake half of the gator.
Despite the fact of jazz, I’m as romantic as a bad house band.
I still think of salvation every time.
Night Train. Sugarcane. Soufflé. Etouffé.
The key to muddy silence is under my tongue.
Where your world gapes open, darlin,’ mine shivers in.
Note: Atchafalaya, pronounced Chaffalya is the largest wetland/Swamp in the US. As you drive down on the big road to Lafayette from Arkansas, it will be on your left. The Meters & Buckwheat are Zydeco musicians; Night Train an impossibly bad red wine.
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Wendy Carlisle Artist Statement:
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She
has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the author of
two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount
Fireworks. A chapbook, After Happily Ever After, was published in
the 2River Chapbook Series, #15. Her most recent publication is
Persephone on the Metro (Mad Hat Books, 2014.) Her work has
appeared in anthologies including The Poets Grimm, Is This
Forever, Or What? Poems and Paintings from Texas, Sol:
English Writing In Mexico. For more information, check her
website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.