Ray Sharp – “Ozark Spring Suite” – A Poem

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

The son of two Yankee carpetbaggers, I was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, a border town where the residents, Lou-uh-villians, brag about the fact that they don’t live in Indiana. In fifth grade, when Jim Rife asked me if I were a Yank or a Reb, I was confused because of my alien parentage, and replied “Well, the North won, so that makes us all Yankees now, right?” Wrong! But now that I live in the land of perpetual snow, I miss the dogwoods and magnolias in springtime, tubing through the Red River Gorge in summer, cross-country meets at Seneca Park in the fall, and UL and UK basketball in the winter (go Cards!). I can tell you exactly where I was when Christian Laettner hit that turn-around buzzer-beater over two Wildcat defenders to lead Duke to the Final Four. And my favorite breakfast is the cheese eggs, raisin toast, grits and black coffee at—where else?—Waffle House.

Ozark Spring Suite

First spring moon
silky shroud sky
frosted winter dead
grass matted over
bright green sprouts
rubber asphalt hum
mile long crescendo
white moon yellow ring
night flower black field
within without beyond self
so I stand bare
feet on stirring earth.

Mercifully warm
after snow-heavy winter
brown world turning green.

Brother Spider,
do you feel pulled
eight ways at once?
Sister Spider,
how do you spin a web
and let the world come to you?

Missouri moonlight
shines through oak, pine, cedar –
spring peeper chorus.

Words come slow by day
like starting a fire with wet wood.
Do you ever feel heavy
with the season’s damp humors,
snapped into lengths and stacked?
Would you sacrifice your growth-ringed core
to the marriage of carbon and oxygen
and the consuming heat of its bed?
When the tepee’d kindling would not catch
the feeble flame from the mac ‘n cheese box,
she said why not light some done crosswords,
and so he did, tearing solved puzzles
from the book and setting them, crumpled,
to burn, consonants and vowels and black squares,
clues and wordplays and clever misdirections,
flash of light and crackling heat,
all the old words reborn in fire,
a golden ring encircling them in the dark.
Words rose shimmering from the ashes,
spitting sparks, splitting the night air
like axes ringing, retelling the old tales
that call across a million years.

Arkansas bouquet –
redbud, dogwood, wild plums and
forsythia bloom.

Raccoon, deer and hungry bear,
water, water, everywhere!

Ozark spring morning
cool in the shady hollow –
oatmeal and coffee.

The old apple tree
way up yonder
grows bitter fruit
when the creek runs dry.
A hungry bear
is bound to wander
in search of honey
when the bees buzz nigh.

Mandolin, banjo,
guitar twang and voices sing
The Old Rugged Cross.

Some dreams rise like smoke
and join the sky.
Some dreams spin around the river bend
and float away.
Some dreams fall like leaves and lie
beneath our feet.
Some dreams are cached like acorns
in the hollows of forgotten trees.

Now the fire is cold,
the stars have burned to ashes,
ashes, all fall down.