Sour sop colognes the Carolina dirt hills.
Scoured pennies saved for the butcher’s saw
hacking smoked pigs spinning over a freedman’s
ember pit. Fevered eyes feast on the crackling crimson
snout and stiletto hoofs.Burnt vinegar vapors and
sepia filters on a world of my mother’s childhood.
Coiffed lacquered layers sway
as she steers to Broward County hospital.
My father in passenger side surrender,
a hostage buckled to his seat.
We listened to all the CDs,
tapes, and the afternoon radio
rattles male enhancement ads.
I break somber silence with a question: childhood?
My mother was a Carolina Tomboy
chasing brothers through mud puddles,
caked in the red clay song,
tossing back off warehouse cliffs
into cotton silos, tumbling nights
at the mill, sliding between the chain fences,
climbing to the warehouse summits
and flinging themselves down into clouds
pristine mound smudged by swan dives and belly flops.
My mother underneath a sackcloth
smuggled out of the Carolina hills
in a darkness, escaping whiskey cusses and
glass shard swears and blue bruises and
bloodsore blister eyes and cotton clouds
stained scarlet and a pale cold fleece of spittle and
his paranoid seizures and the whiskey’s bad and
its made that man delirious and
it’s made that man dangerous and
that family’s gonna end up dead and
he’s gonna kill them, he thinks they’re plotting and
everyone in town is scared of his rambling chaos and
his shadow clears streets and
closes doors, shutters windows and
his staggers scatters vulture dogs, and
that whole family is gonna end up neck slit
like they do that smoked swine and
we can’t help you cause we scared and
here he comes so stop talking to me and
stop your crying. You’re making a scene and
The truck leaves midnight and he can’t find out and
once you’re gone that’s it and
it’s an underground railroad for black women and
daughter, that’s been going on for a while, and
you will never see these Carolina hills again. And
when you’re older only remember this town and
this part of your life as a moonless night
smuggled underneath vinegar scents and sackcloths.
Corn mash ferments in the closet
of a Miami apartment.
These concrete blocks stacked to sky
swing and shake with Southern women,
farm hands, cooks, washerwomen, maids,
butlers, teachers, voodoo charmers,
crowded on top of each other.
“This some good mash and,
this here sugar shine
is gonna get us out, lil brat.”
But she ain’t listening.
Still thinking red clay and smoked pork.
Her head is still in them Carolina cotton clouds.
The family bootlegged in the projects
like they was still back on the farm.
But plenty of field folks
prefered tasting bathtubs over breweries,
so money flowed while the closets kept closed
from social workers who liked to drop by unannounced,
“cause if you want to keep getting
checks you gotta be clean and respectable citizens,
and we know how you country peckers
like to live in filth, but this is the city
and if you want to keep your apartment
you gotta get inspected.”
Sugar shine so strong it kilt lice,
disinfected windows, blinded happy men.
But locked behind closet doors,
shine’s slight stench stayed unrecognized
by inspectors who don’t know what to look for,
don’t know how shine sings on the lower octaves.
We swerved into the visitor's parking lot
splashing asphalt puddles of rain.
The Miami humidity we call white gravy,
fogs our glasses, prickles the hairs on my arm.
The hospital's scarlet crucifix burns against storm clouds.
She’s never been back to Carolina
so that curse stayed in place,
“What if those cotton silos are still there?”
Astonished tears pool at the rims,
speckling her eyelashes.
And what if that mean old man is still alive?
In her mind, he’s still there.
Demented minotaur charging down
dirt roads. Moonshine flask sagging sack cloth slacks
moored with tent ropes. In her mind he’s still there.
Left in the darkness to wait and wander by the only road
out of town.