Saturday, November 8, 2008

North-South Relations: A Poem

For the second time in a week, I’m awake at 2am and can’t get back to sleep because of coughing and congestion. It’s 3:30 now, and this poem about North-South relationships is in my head, so I might as well busy my brain for a little and type it out for you.  I have to wake up at 4:20am, anyway, because I'm catching a 6:30 flight to Tupelo, MS.

A friend typed this poem out for me ten years ago when she was at a really boring job. My friend was my roommate at the time, and she is still one of my very best friends. She’s also an amazing poet herself. When you read this poem, try not to think of George Bush. Think of like, normal Southern people. This poem is about the strengths and foibles of both North and South, but really about friendship.

(from George Bradley’s The Fire Fetched Down, 1996)

From the land of football recruiting scandals,
Barbeque and kudzu, creation science,
Military schooling and right-to-work laws,
Country of country

Music, come, old friend, to the land of mud-rooms,
Flu, and acid slush, to decaying factory
Towns and autumn foliage fanfare, pilgrim
Mores and pilgrim

Cooking, please come flying. Fly Continental,
If you must, but travel and take advantage
Of the miser’s welcome New England offers:
Taciturn greeting,

Shellfish, maple glop, and a local stab at
Wine. Alas, the syrup and wine aren’t always
Easy to distinguish, while conversation
Here and about is

Rather less mercurial than the chowder.
We must count on you, then, to keep the table
Lively. Born and bred in the South, where breeding
Matters and manners

Are a sort of spectator sport, by instinct
You will captivate the assorted neighbors
We invite to witness a rare performance,
Charming them silly

With your deep-fried flattery, served in portions
Just this side of fattening, with your gossip
Balanced on the line that divides piquant from
Legal exposure.

Later, dinner done and the others gone or
Gone to bed, we heroes can strive to stave off
Sleep and reminisce for a while, rewriting
Scenes from our epic

College years together, lamenting classmates
Lost or dead, amazing ourselves to notice
Dreams we formed in youth of devoting life to
Language have somehow

Come to pas, albeit in ways we couldn’t
Possibly foresee at the time, arrived as
We now are at homes and careers and family,
Come to this present

Peace, or its simulacrum. Jay, what pleasure
Can compare to memories shared upon the
Stroke of midnight? Call it nostalgia, call it

Either way, please visit. It won’t be like the
Old days, when the hunger that pounded through our
Veins possessed us, driving us into darkened
Streets toward sunrise.

If you made it to the end of this poem, I want to brag about my friend real quick. The year before she typed this poem out for me, she wanted to be in the poetry class of a professor named Charles Wright. He gruffly told her on the phone that the class was full, but to bring some samples of her work by his office. He flipped through them and said, “Oh. These will be fine. I’ll see you Monday.” The dude won the Pulitzer the next year!  My friend is so talented, and I don't always think she realizes that.  I try to remind her as often as possible.

It’s 4 am. I cannot believe I am leaving for the airport in 45 minutes!!!


Julie said...

Hope you had a good flight! Great poem....

gms said...

I like it.

And Tupelo:

Anonymous said...

I loved this poem and it made me home sick for my college roommates...