Stories of the Old South

Copyright Bonnie Stanard

A LITERARY AFFAIR


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.

FAIRVIEW FARMHOUSE

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.

ABOUT BARNS


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.


AKIN TO A ROOSTER'S CROW


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.