Robert James Laws, III – “We didn’t know” – A Poem

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I am a native of North Carolina, a devoted fan of Duke basketball, and a hopeless Cheerwine addict. I’m also a vegan, and the worst part of eschewing animal products is not being able to eat a bowl of grits drowned in at least a stick of butter, and Lexington style barbeque. OK, so I do cheat once in a while, most likely because my Georgia Granny used her finger dipped in sausage gravy as my first- and favorite- pacifier. I lived outside of the South for 4 years while attending seminary in Pittsburgh, but high-tailed it back down South of Mason-Dixon the day after graduation, accepting a position in an Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia. My proudest achievement: teaching Yankees how to say y’all and all y’all.

We didn’t know

We didn’t know that we were living green,
when we helped momma hang the wet laundry out to dry on the green wire
that was suspended between the two apple trees in the backyard.
We didn’t know we were saving the earth,
when we reused jelly jars to drink sweet tea
and coffee tins to save our bacon drippings,
which was always on hand to make gravy to pour over biscuits at breakfast.
We didn’t know we were eating organic,
when we planted rows of corn, tomatoes, squash and green beans
that we canned for the winter and shared with neighbors.
We didn’t know we were recycling,
when the clothes I had outgrown were passed down to my brother
or one of my cousins who was a bit smaller than me.
We didn’t know we were saving natural resources,
when we stopped by Miss Sharpe’s house on the way to church,
so that she could share a ride with us,
because her husband was always too hungover to drive her himself.
We didn’t know we were environmentalists,
when we sat on the front porch in the sweltering humidity of August,
trying to stay cool with homemade ice cream
because we couldn’t afford to turn on the air conditioner in the living room window
until it was time to go to bed.
We didn’t know that being poor was being green.
We didn’t know that we were living green.