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University of Georgia Dorm
We wanted to be brave, prove ourselves,
yet we studied deep into each night
to keep out of the war that was our
one big chance to prove we were brave,
the chance Phil from Cordele got after
failing Chemistry, losing his deferment,
Phil who was clumsy, not good at sports.
We shook our heads at the thought of him –
fuzz-cheeked, helmet too big, search and destroy.
We looked for faces on the nightly news,
friends pushing their way through chest-high grass.
Two hundred Phils a week were getting killed.
We dreamed of pulling hurt kids from car wrecks
to prove we were brave, but there were no wrecks,
there was only the war where cousins flew
Hueys outside of Pleiku, and we did not.
"Hiding out in college isn't fair," we said.
Ramrod uncles said, "All right then, enlist."
We didn't want to go that far.
Krishna told Arjuna he had to go fight.
Hector's body was defiled at Troy.
God told Abraham, "Kill me a son,"
the line Bob Dylan used in a song
we sometimes played in our metal-desk rooms
where we studied while not being brave.
No one wanted to be the son who might
not be spared, the son who'd go like Phil did,
like Trey from Macon did after he gave up
passing Statistics. We helped him pack,
told him he might end up in Germany,
but nobody really believed it.
Dive Bar Sundays
It opened at noon for NASCAR races,
this place we dare not enter at night.
But if you'd ever spent time under a hood,
ever brazed a tail pipe, you were welcome
to shout at the fuzzy TV with roofers,
to drink flat Pabst from scratch-clouded mugs,
the social miracle – prep school teachers
and college profs fitting in (hating Fords
and loving ole Dale or vice versa)
with the urban unreconstructed,
pistons banging in cylinders uniting
those with little else in common except
revulsion for the jar of pickled eggs.
But when art school girls started showing up,
first as our dates then in gawking threes
they ruined the balance and never noticed
for here was a redneck petting zoo,
blessed antidote to their world of concepts.
Fleeing irony, they brought it with them,
their black-frame glasses not hiding bodies
the regulars first appraised then wanted.
This placed us in the chivalrous trap
of protecting the girls while wanting them too.
Resentments emerged, the spell was broken,
our clothes and proper English mocked.
But after the race, if neck-stoma Bud
danced on the bar while smoking a Camel
through his stainless hole, the art-schoolers
got up there too, did the dirty-dog,
thrusting their bottoms to Lynyrd Skynyrd,
re-uniting the men they'd just divided.