Norvin Dickerson : Three Poems Jan. 2019

SOUTHERN LEGITIMACY STATEMENT I was conceived on a houseboat on the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina and was born in Monroe, North Carolina first year of the Baby Boomers. I got my undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. My kin, Irish immigrants to North and South Carolina, fought for the Confederacy. I drive miles out of my way to eat Lexington Barbeque, and belong to a band of pirates and sailors, Brothers of the Coast, located in Savannah, Georgia. I live in the town of Black Mountain in western North Carolina.

NO NAME HURRICANE
There are (a)bsolutely no
buzzards. The wind killed
all the buzzards.
Ernest Hemingway

You can argue about which was the worst
hurricane. The one that hit the Keys
on Labor Day 1935 was given no name.
It struck above No Name Key,
at the Matecumbe Keys, which means kill men.
The hurricane killed over 400 people, most of them
World War I veterans building a highway
to Key West, men Harry Hopkins, FDR’s lieutenant,
wanted to get out of their Hooverville
box houses in the nation’s capital, men
who were picketing for a war bonus,
aging in hitched up trousers, drinking beer,
eating starch.

Living in a labor camp
on government time
sweating canteen beer
heat taking my breath away
hiding in mangroves
eating Vienna sausages

All for a few dollars
a day to spread crushed
limestone on a roadbed
cross channel
reached down and picked out
a Florida lobster
to go with my beer
never get out of here
drinking beer and drawing
bad cards bitch
in the hole

A train scheduled to come
from Miami to get us
how far do our homemade
barometers have to fall
before the train arrives

High winds and waves slapped
our tents and shacks flat
I held onto railroad ties
until they buckled
surges washed
my ears clean
sand blasted my eyeballs

I nested
in a mangrove
hugged roots dodged railroad ties
splinters sharp as a horse needle

The horizon disappeared
air still as the stars
but a big wave
came again

At daylight I saw bloated
bodies around me
stuck in the mangroves
their clothes blown off
sand crabs plucked eyeballs
ate toes

No buzzards to let out the gas
storm killed them too

I waded back to camp
on the railroad bed
bodies were stacked
some with big timbers
through their shoulders
or a forehead like Frankenstein’s

The National Guard ran me off
at gunpoint I heard they burned
bodies of some veterans
and didn’t know who they were –
no names like the hurricane
that killed them

They had survived
No Mans Land in France
20 years later they’re buried
in a common grave at a place called
Homestead

Flying Nuns (1963)

I had attended Andover, a Massachusetts prep school for two years when
my father persuaded my sister to attend a girls school in the same town.
My parents moved to Andover, bought a house on a cul-de-sac off School
Street. My father met one couple when he pulled a dog off their son.
The mother, Elliott Richardson’s sister. Dad never met the Gillette
heiress next door, but he was on a first name basis with her yardman,
who charged the yard every time a leaf fell.

The nuns in the convent at the end of the street interested Dad the most.
He caught Sister Mary Nan outside and invited the nuns to visit 49 School Street, a nondescript brick rancher. It had a good kitchen where Dad stuffed lobster, baked cod and clams oreganata. The Sisters politely declined, said they weren’t allowed to enter private homes. My father was prepared to get a Papal dispensation when the local Cardinal let them come over. Dad was an oddity to them, a Southerner and a hero after rescuing the neighbor boy. Mom intrigued them because she favored Natalie Wood.

Dad prepared finger sandwiches and tea, not exactly his specialty, and put
a decanter of sherry nearby. (He knew a pitcher of martinis was out
of the question.) The next time Dad invited them over he played his new
cord organ. When he played Sweet Georgia Brown too slowly, my sister chimed Pick up the beat, Dad. He replied God damn it, I’m playing as fast as I can. The Sisters must have been in a forgiving mood. Dad pushed his luck, invited them to fly in his company’s King Air over Andover and the convent. My grandmother, Annie, persuaded them to go. She was the stewardess on the two flights it took to haul all 12 nuns in wimples to the heavens above.

ISABEL ( Monroe, N.C. 1948)

Where’s my boy?
Never been to her house before.
Big kind Isabel would catch
me in her skirts, sweep
harm away. She lived
next to the cemetery
behind the school.
Early fall, lazy light.
Is that my boy?
I cleared the porch and den
weaving between people.
No strong playful Isabel
to run headlong into.
She seemed shrunken
propped up in bed.
There you are child.
Talk floated above me.
She ain’t recognized nobody
but him for weeks.

2012 Best of the Net Nominations

The Dead Mule has submitted the following poets and their poems [published in the Dead Mule to the 2012] to Sundress Publications: The Best of the Net.  Congratulations to all.

Cathy Smith Bowers – “A Book a Day” – published April 2012

Norvin Dickerson – “NASCAR Poet” – published October 2011

Shenan Hahn – “To the Coyote on the Side of the Interstate” – published February 2012 (scroll down)

Michael Evan Parker – “Old Woman Sweeping” – published June 2012

Tim Peeler – “Drive-In 48” – published April 2012 (scroll down)

Staci R. Schoenfeld – “World Wide Web” – published March 2012

Norvin Dickerson: Four Poems

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I was conceived on a houseboat on the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina and was born in Monroe, North Carolina first year of the Baby Boomers. I got my undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. My kin, Irish immigrants to North and South Carolina, fought for the Confederacy. I drive miles out of my way to eat Lexington Barbeque, and belong to a band of pirates and sailors, Brothers of the Coast, located in Savannah, Georgia. I live in the town of Black Mountain in western North Carolina.

Road Kill

Fresh kill
the squirrel
not yet flat
with tread
the crow
crests him
picks and jerks
dodging cars
at the last moment
with a drill sergeant’s
strut
about face parade rest
march to the carcass again.

The crow
doesn’t orchestrate
the kill
nor does
the driver.
The squirrel
is inbred with
road confusion and
ignorance of technology.

**

The Flu Angel

Soldiers returned from the Great War.
Flu followed.  Masked nurses visited
homes to take temperatures,
administer cold compresses.
The Monroe Enquirer tallied deaths
on the front page like baseball box scores.
Few volunteers could be recruited to take
food into homes.  One woman

took it upon herself to deliver soup to victims.
People recognized her red beret cocked
too much.  Residents who hadn’t eaten
her chicken soup talked about how she drank
gin at after-hours clubs and danced
with salesmen, leaned backwards close enough
to the floor for her hair to touch. Pots of chicken soup
later she died from flu herself, and with no
family or estate was buried in Potter’s Field.

My mother did not know her but heard
stories. Donations bought a tombstone
but no one knew her name, except to call her
the lady with the red beret, or the soup lady,
or flu angel. On her tombstone are carved
a beret, a soup pot, and an angel, but no name.

**

Armadillo

Beast so prehistoric nothing
is vestigial, slouches
across a road where no car
wants to tangle.  Who knows
what possesses his pointy head
when he’s straddled.  Like an Ice Age
Star Wars spaceship he launches
himself into the Caddie’s
undercarriage and is served
on the half-shell.

**

Drinking Fountains

I heard B. B. King tell about coming to town on Saturday in Indianola,
Mississippi and sneaking
a drink from the Whites Only fountain.  Sweet water.  I first saw
Robert Williams when I handed out
plastic utensils at the fish fry my father threw for shop mechanics.
He stood beside
a water fountain labeled Colored. The only black mechanic,
he wore army fatigues
and a black tee shirt, just discharged from the military after Korea.
Sported a goatee
and sipped iced tea. I wanted to say hello.
He didn’t work
there long, Little Joe later told me.  Bad fit.

1961, I drove to the public golf course with my learner’s permit.  Robert
Williams led a picket line
around the public pool.  Stouter, with a modest Afro, he now headed
the local branch of the NAACP.
I knew not to wave.  City fathers closed the pool, filled it in
with dirt and gravel.

The next summer Robert Williams picketed the courthouse protesting
segregated lunch counters
at the Dixie Grill and Faulkner’s Drug, and black people forced off
Main Street at sunset. On Saturday
country boys drove their pickups, loud mufflers and armed gun racks,
around the Square.  Spat
tobacco juice at the marchers.  Mother ordered me to stay away from town.
I disobeyed.
I saw farmer-tanned arms hanging out truck windows, heard
insults slung.
An older couple from nearby Marshville drove into
dark town.
Robert Williams allegedly kidnapped them at gunpoint.
He said he protected
them from an angry black mob.  He released the couple, but the police
charged him.

He took the underground railroad north to Canada and flew to Cuba.
Out-of-state newspapers printed
photos of him in an army cap with Fidel Castro, later in a Mao hat
when he traveled to China
to see the Chairman.

Robert Williams wanted to come home so years later he crossed
the Canadian border,
surrendered in Detroit and waived objection to extradition.
The couple from Marshville
had died, no other witnesses, charges dropped.  Robert Williams
died in 1996
and was buried behind the segregated junior high school
I attended,
where toughs went to fight with switchblades.
An all-white cemetery.