SOUTHERN GOTHIC

 

Artifacts strewn and scattered among the ruins,

heaped alongside the teetering barn,

propped against fence posts with falling-down rails—

an iron rooster weather vane

divines the turmoil at our feet,

a rusted pump handle points the way

to a wood stove and spring house

set in dry creek beds run to mockery.

 

What are these things, the children ask?

And I hardly know how to answer,

for whatever I propose for this mise en scène

will never do it justice.

 

The one is for cooking biscuits, I say,

the other a cool place for black snakes

and spiders in the heat of day,

both anachronistic as the hand grinder,

the cotton gin, the Underwood typewriter,

the sweet smell of boxwoods and clover,

the loveliness of fresh mown hay…

 

But they’ve already lost interest

as other guests begin to arrive—

a rag man come to stitch a handmade doll,

a sharpener of knives all set to carve

a sheaf of silhouettes,

an unseen fox, perhaps, from up in the hills,

to scatter the plump due diligence of hens

while flightless turkeys roost on the splintered rails.

 

Luminous evening of honeysuckle and cornbread,

wisteria and magnolia blossom, please

bring forth the coolness of absolution, we pray.

For grasshoppers whir in barren fields

as hot and acrid as spit tobacco,

toads and all manner of creatures

are stymied and shrivel in the heat,

and dust rises for miles along the washboard road.

 

Tim Hawkins has lived and traveled widely throughout North America, Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America, where he has worked as a journalist, technical writer, grant writer, communications consultant and teacher in international schools. His writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including BluelineEclecticaThe FleaIron Horse Literary ReviewMidwest QuarterlyPedestal Magazine, and Verse Wisconsin. His poetry collection, Wanderings at Deadline, was published in 2012 by Aldrich Press.

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