Southern Legitimacy Statement: Came to Richmond in 1977 as a damned Yankee, that is one who decided to stay. Gradually lost my New York accent and started saying “youse all.” Told my clients that my people were F.F.V. and they shook their heads earnestly. “Don’t believe I ever heard of Heifetz.” “Just kidding, ma’am,” I replied. “ We’re from North Carolina.”
Aunt Belle’s Chinese Vase
Years after Ben’s accident at the mill,
Belle’s memories of him were like
pieces of the Chinese vase
he’d bought her in Atlanta,
the one the cats knocked over in the hall.
No matter how artfully
she tried to glue them back together,
there were always gaps,
places she couldn’t recall,
words she had forgotten,
small chunks of history
shaved off by the blade
Still, memories however pieced together,
were better than no memories at all.
Likewise for the mended vase
whch she placed back on its pedastal
(some said the cracks added to
its Asian character)
and every time she looked at it
she thought of Ben,
whole and handsome,
young and strong as the river.
The cats, confined to the back porch now,
dozed fitfully in the sun,
dreaming of birds.
Belle planted petunias in the garden.
All in all, an ordinary day
like the one that sliced her heart in two
while everyone was looking the other way.
doing the dirty
on a mountaintop in Maine
we didn’t expect no-see-ums
attracted by the scent
to bite us where we ain’t
never been bit before
for days we walked around
stiff-limbed from the climb
resisting with all our earthly powers
the temptation to scratch
right here in Buena Vista
I had her up against a rock
with my pants around my feet
when a rattler approached
I reached in slo-mo for my gun
and he became a gourmet breakfast
of snake and eggs
crackling in a rusty skillet
on an open fire
now there’s just the two of us
no kids black flies or snakes
and we only do it in the bedroom
on the rare occasions
when the old urge bites
Falls Trail, Early Spring
The river welcomes us
with soothing songs
it sings the whole night long.
We balance like high-wire artists
on a mossy log
and reach the other side.
We’ve got here just in time
before the forest closes up
with growth run wild,
before the rivers slow to a crawl
and the mosquitos settle in.
When only a few precocious
dogwoods are in bloom.
They say the first green is the finest.
That’s me nodding by the fire
from too much Yukon Jack,
boots toasted by the flames,
and that’s big, brawny Bo
roasting squirrels on the coals.
Here’s full-bearded Bryce
firing up his antique lantern
and incinerating several trees,
wide-eyed Horace finding the rubber snake
we planted in his sleeping bag,
bare-chested Bill singing in an icy waterfall,
the children catching crawfish in the creek.
There’s Junior shining a flashlight
in the eyes of the stoned college boys
who have stumbled into camp.
When they see three giant black men
decked out in camouflage,
they drop their beer and make a run for it.
Holy shit, they cry, it’s the Marines.
And the through-hiker, skinny bastard,
living for weeks on fungus,
sleeping under a plastic sheet,
but not too proud to eat our stew.
Yes, I’ve been down this trail before,
but never in the rollicking company
of so many ghosts.