The Weather Within the Southerner 

The south is condemned to intense hot or cold. We are a confused, unsettled and mischievous people. But, we are a people. That has been no easy chore.

Each day we are more, growing numbers and expense. Our cities expand like suburbs, spread out in commercial franchises. But not our farms. Jaggedly cut chunks of familial property. These inherited spaces are cleaved into twos, threes, fours before they can climb up to safer rungs on the generational ladder.

Time is still telling us that story. Slowly.

A home is not a house, or an apartment, or a single room in long knotted strings of lonely spaces. Only because one can not be sustained by, inside, closed off in a box. It takes land to make a long-term stand. And these fertile eastern parcels are shrinking. Split yearly into further isolated, lower taxed pieces. Acres broken up again and again for each successive litter.

The Piedmont region of North Carolina is an easy place to fall madly in love with. The extreme summers are at least filtered through foliage choked heights of hardwood and pines. That winter shiver is not known to last long, though perhaps a little longer than this most recent confused season.

The real traumatic, dangerous weather is within the southerner. Having gained and lost more in cultural transition than almost any other mass, vague, generic region of this American nation. Which is good, for the most part. Change has benefited us. Because for too long the southern dream had become how to leave the old family farm far behind.

And I say, let us wake up from such escapist dreams. It is time. We can not go back to the way things were years ago, but that does not mean we can not go home. And why wouldn’t we?

Lucky for southerners, we don’t have to go too far
to find a place as hot and as cold as we are.

To Do Things Like This

The teeth rattling along lower gums were not his. Did not want to be his.
Kept falling greasily from his mouth every loud labored moist throat back chord wiggling breath, until he, exhausted, rolled a big flappy underlip back in curling like a wave,
and sucked the off white crests of artificial bone, dissipated into brown water
like dingy foam sucked back by tides into the ocean. The salt tides of his fuzzy breasts.
The intoxicated loopy daze of bloodshot eyes rolling in his head. His sister just died.
He needed a shirt and tie. That soft-hills-bulge he and his wife referred to as a neck
measured twenty six, to her mock shock, the wife, who swore he wore a twenty two,
and in the short course of minutes, we were trying on shoes, and found him a belt.
The entire time him slurping those teeth, almost molested into remaining
in that always chewing moving swollen mouth.
Making jokes to two white women waiting on their daughters.
Trying on prom dresses. And more importantly, trying them off.

Look at the size of this belt. Here, lord, we know where the years have gone.

He had the sweetest wife, who left him seated, up front talking so she could do some shopping, because it was clear he was not stopping. And with her not around, the wife,
in back smiling at a colorful discount half price gown, he could not stoop to tie his shoe.
So I smiled and slipped worn cottony padding around the back of his black diabetic sock,
which don’t do much damn good, accordingly. And if he had asked,
I might have tucked those dentures in for him too,
back behind his cracked wide smiling lips.

I have begun to believe I am alive to do things like this.

To the maniacal impulse in my sleeping mind,
stirring up dreams like muck in otherwise clean water,
I know more than you.

I know streams flow on to meet rivers and oceans.

That this little eddy of sleep, turning me still where I am,
water rolled back in on itself, trapped in perpetual tumble.
It is worse to know the distance it traveled.

The deep salty destination to which all tributaries eventually contribute.

Spinning behind this solid submerged rock,
stuck waking up anxious to grinding in my gut,
sad angry words for the woman awake beside me,

about how there is a mirror haunting my dreams.

Rain that comes straight down. So hard it gets a second chance to jump back up from underneath. Soaks everything. Soaks me. Left the doors off the jeep. I know the eyes that followed me home. Brunette debts paid to dirty blond actresses with deep dark pupils planted center. Bare rose bushes. Gravel wash out. Darker than December at five o’clock in the afternoon. Indigestion rumbles in the distance. Hooded women are running to their cars. We are all praying for someone to get home safe. North Carolina summer. East coast storms. We are all walking on water. In a thousand different forms. The geese love it. Stopped in the road four fluffy children in a row waddling after the great sleek black-neck honking at cars with foggy windows. We swim in lakes that were not there one hundred years ago. We burn the stagnate relics off ancient jungles in our engines like it was nothing, ascend their toxic spirit so that even paradise has a few holes punched in it. All alone wrapped up in waning swiss cheese ozone. Dear God. Make us a sandwich. Lettuce smeared in mayonnaise clouds and a sopping wet sliced red tomato for sun. Dripping sticky rain that soaks in and leaves stains. Sunkissed skin and moonlicked and cooked dark and broiled brown. Pink fingernails in black settings. Red knuckles etched with white scars. Words. That fill your head with pictures. Clouds. That soak the ground with rain. Seasons. Far more than four. Within these southern summers.
Spring and fall on each side like soggy bread.

Morning is a season.
So is the evening.
All on it’s own.

Don’t be surprised to wake up in heaven.
And drive through a little hell to get home.

Dad always said I worked harder for a fire than anything else.

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What a weird dish life is.
Something fresh. Hot. Like I left the oven on all night. Cooking only air. Making it up as I go along. Taste. Touch. Texture. Smell. Size. Portions. The pan that frames it and the blade the divines it into pieces. What a weird dish art is. What an interesting little endeavor, this particularly genius form of prayer. Creation. Try making it for yourself. That meal you loved in the restaurant. The show you like on TV. Wear your jersey and watch the World Series, but is it such a stretch to suggest you go out and play a game of catch? I do it with a pen in my hand, because I have yet to see my perspective appropriately represented in our culture. And I fully intend to do the dirty work myself. Boots on. Gloves back pocketed. Needle nose accompaniment. Multi-tool belt decoration. Fixed blade embracing my hip. Sheath savior saving me from fulfilling the role by skin. If what I do day to day came with a set of instructions, goddamn, I must have misplaced it a long time ago. I honestly probably started a fire with it, balled up and flame kissed before I even thought to read a word. And is that so absurd, to want to freestyle your lifestyle? It isn’t like I didn’t give the mainstream highway damn near eighteen years worth of consideration. I heard you all use the word education, but you just didn’t do enough to get me to distrust my eyes. My sense. My all inclusive mind. The path I’m going to walk will be mine. I will own it no matter how much I have to pay. So I intend to make the grade myself. Direction. Destination. Dynamics. Classrooms. Commitments. Concentrations. Make it up, all on your own, as you go along. Go see for yourself what a weird dish life is.