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Why White Southern Poets Write the Way We Do

ISSUE:  Winter 2004

Because we were the last ones deserted
by the God of visions and serpents—

because an August field can levitate
on the ratcheting din of cicadas,

and the magnolia, offering its melted candles,
burns invisible prayers onto sunlight—

because every one of us has at least one
relative who plowed poor with a mule—

because the dead still enter our sleep as columns
of figures on the debit side of the ledger,

and there are darker voices in which we cannot speak,
black ghosts, smoke hanging in the twilit liveoaks—

because we found the broken words everywhere,
rolling like loose beads under the chiffonier,

and we weren’t suspicious when our breath
restrung them in patterns heavy as scripture—

because a mist can sit in a pasture
like a cloud in a basket—

we never stopped believing the hoop snake
really does roll to assert the compass of time,
framing the vanished, the exiled dreamers, even
ourselves rising to occasion, almost reprieved
as the weed-strangled fields rise in autumn fire
to dance, to sing anyhow, to grieve.


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