Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’d like to tell you about the poorly shrouded frost-burnt parrot carcass stashed in a friend’s grandmother’s freezer, but it’s not my story to share. I do tell on my housemates’ haints all the time, though, because somebody’s gotta thumb-wrestle all them tales into line; not having musician-bartender hands to protect, I can poke into unlabeled pies. As my smartest Southern sisters can tell you, you miss out on a lot if you expect a name for everything or everything to make sense, but it’s not just people not from here who don’t realize that.
Loveliness and Glory
They’re at it again,
the friends from San Francisco
carping about Nashville
not being San Francisco:
the sorry sushi
and Bible as bludgeon
just the start
of how this city
isn’t San Francisco
in too many ways to forgive.
Even in a Sunday dress,
I’m not myself immune to wanting
more dim sum joints, more liberals in the lege,
more oh-la-la in the galleries.
Even so, this city is my home
but when I tell the friends from San Francisco
their sneering at the South is tiresome
they quickly protest, “You know we don’t mean you!”
and then rage on about how Nashville
isn’t San Francisco. They miss its beat,
its breadth, its brine. They miss miss miss
until all I think
between sips of bourbon
is Bless your hearts where you left them.
Pouring a Dirty Mother into the Sink
As the cocktail puddles
over the old, slow drain,
the memories bubble up: you do not miss
Memphis. You certainly do not miss
how, when you lived there, everything was tight—
money, and schedules, and everyone after a show,
and some of your dresses, clinging to your ass
at least with more sass than how you clung
to assholes with their smoke-and-mirror scraps
of maybes masked as yeses. How you believed
that fate was a matter of trying hard enough.
How your lover scoffed at that, urging
another drink into you. You did eventually learn
enough to agree. Enough to leave.
You should say all this to the friend you’ve outgrown
who mixed you the drink as an ode to old times
but just like its dregs, resisting disappearance,
the tendrils between you remain dark and sweet.
Whenever she sings, ohhh,
between my hips, mmmm,
gardens start to riot, yesss,
and skyscrapers stretch, wheeeee,
to dippers full of kisses, ooooh,
as her pearls-melting-back-into-oysters odes
to smoke-feathered nights, and the brush of their fronds
against the chime-laced rainy days—oh,
when she sings to the very core of me,
a fist unclenches around green petals
too tiny to be crushable. See
how they wait—
for shivers, for water—
ready for every kind of caress.
Thanksgiving in New Orleans
twirling a toe
in the shallows
of a mainstream,
I stitch up turducken
with a thread
of a tarasque