Words are submissive but unfaithful,
fickle to their roots and inconstant.
Even if you believe them,
they act in bad faith
double-cross your best efforts and desert you.
As often as you use them they abuse you.
Believe me, they mess
with your meaning.
Thanks to The Griffin which originally published this poem.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
This is the farm house where I grew up in Lexington County, South Carolina.
Outside and soaking wet, the winter fields lie dormant, cotton already gone. In the far-off kitchen,
the coffee’s not in the pot. The fire’s not started
in the stove. The wood’s stacked on the porch
and getting damp as the wind blows.
The quilt on the bed is curled and wrapped,
its patches of flannel and muslin a testament
to Grandma’s scraps, collected like rain water
and sewn together on cloudy days in fallow months.
Rain pelts the tin roof, and the rooms inside echo
the extra breath in the lungs of the clouds.
Wet switches lash the leaky windows
behind curtains with sun bleached pleats.
A cold sparrow sleeps in the chinquapin,
and if daybreak didn’t seem so gray,
the biscuits would already be cooking.
Thanks to Phi Kappa Phi Forum which originally published this poem.
No where else do smells fume so naturally.
No where is the nose so anointed
with bold drifts of raw nature
with unrestrained whiffs of hoofs and bridles
woody bark and even the sour smell of corn cocks.
Musty emissions arise from mice,
an airless drought from the grain bin,
and the staid, old twist of turpentine
from the pine floor.
A breeze brings in the earthy tinge
of muddy bogs and stinky hogs
not to mention horse droppings and cow pies.
All about the barn
animals were once discursive
especially at suppertime.
Now the various utterances
of cows, chickens, pigs, and horses
negotiate memory to be heard.
Old age affects the joints
floaters the view,
and the boards churr
like chickens under the floor.
Its tin roof is curled and rusty
its once brawny beams now dilapidated.
Dust motes exercise in stabs of light
streaming through the cracks.
Thanks to Taproot Magazine, which first published this poem.
My thanks to Belle Reeve Journal, which originally published this poem.
It was at ten p.m. on a squeaky bed
that Mama pushed me out
while Grandma helped as she could
as she had for every other baby born in our house..
I puckered, squealed, and opened my eyes
to the frame walls, plank floors
and rattling doors of the farmhouse I grew to love.
Strange, how I won favor over and above
my brothers and sisters because I was born
when a relative lived with us,
a man without a home
and too sick for the Army.
My first attempts at words whistled
through my teeth and so charmed him
he took me with him everywhere
except fishing until I was three
and he was as old as he was going to be.
As my uncle, he made me worthy for better,
but at night he heaved for breath
and even yet, his struggle for air
suffocates memories of him.
Barely before my mother could recover
from birthing me
a baby girl was born, and several years later
though my father objected, another brother.
We played in the hay loft, pastures, and fields,
climbed Chinaberry trees, swam in the Edisto River
and stayed with Grandma in the summers
along with my cousins, all boys.
The rough and tumble of gangland relatives
taught me to run and hide when I could
and when I couldn’t to tell lies and fight dirty.
Copyright Bonnie Stanard