It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money.
What the hell is a Scalawag?
Visiting Friends on Lake Carroll
Swimmers with no pools of our own
brought us down to their faded dock:
cannonballs, K-Mart floats, oily sunblock,
you holding me above the sludged bottom.
Later we abandoned the grill that refused
to light for the stovetop inside, passing the cat
neatly killing a small sparrow on the lawn.
I'll take care of it, you said as we looked away.
I always loved your hands, the tall tale
of you, fat-bellied from McDonald's,
stories of bear hunting with your preacher dad.
I liked that you knew how to handle knife,
hammer, gun, steering wheel, my skin.
Still, the best we could feign was ignorance
of that casual mercy you wielded: the twisted
neck of the brown bird hot in the bristling grass.
What the Blacksmith Said
Smith Family Farm, Atlanta History Center
We drifted through the farmhouse, the tour guide rehearsing
how hard it was to tighten seventy feet of rope
that held up the straw-filled mattress, how velvet lined the writing desk
to absorb all the ink. We ate overpriced, meager barbecue,
pepper finding its way between my teeth, you telling me a button
was open on my shirt. Kids made candles, we just stole the wicks.
I tied the string around my finger like a clever joke: I've got something
to remember. You made your s'more in seconds, eyes streaming
from the open fire, me dropping my chocolate.
We watched the blacksmith in the dark barn, the old bellows
hanging overhead like a body bag, coals like a stone-framed sunset,
the apprentice chatting about his work: I can't do with wood what I do with iron.
You muttered, So many hours, marveling at each piece of art, and
I wanted to tell you about the first night you stood at my door,
your eyes were lone copper coins dropped in the window.
Walking back to my car in the cold, I wished you would follow me,
knew you wouldn't, and the children kept playing Graces in the grass,
their wooden sticks crossing, opening to shock the hoops into the sky.