Southern Legitimacy Statement: As a child I took comfort in our town square statue. He faced the direction of the state college where my father taught English. To his right the five and dime sheltered magic slates and glass piggy banks. To his left a closet-sized ice cream parlor stocked Cherries Jubilee. I confess I hope he has survived without offending anyone, watching over fabric stores not yet transformed into strip malls. If his absence is required in current day, let them find a home for him in a dusty museum basement with a thank you from a now-grown young gal for pointing toward what mattered in her life—Daddy, words, and the best pink ice cream since her Mema’s homemade strawberries-and-cream.
To find yourself equestrienned,
saddleback gaunt with legs too short to boot,
and these marvelous, motorized machines
which click and purr around your ears—
Well, it’s no good to say we all ride beasts.
I’d as soon borrow Mother’s Oldsmobile
as to have to spar the redline,
transfer ticket double-punched,
and the driver sure won’t testify
to being trigger happy.
There’s nothing worse than having to eat
the same blackbird twice,
to watch its knobbled claws
scratching their way down your throat
and then to know, when you get up
from the red-checkered table,
he’ll be there for dessert.
Nobody wears jodhpurs in this place,
except in the movies, and the traffic
jams are bread and butter.
Boggy summer lays its wet palm
across the Ganted backs of urban outfitters.
Aback the horse, my crotch is soggy,
impossible to jacket in politely wrinkled linen.
I walk bowlegged, wear trousers to work,
smile at the snickering secretaries
with their private jokes and small imports.
And then there’s the difficulty of hay
and the rarity of alfalfa
and the clubs which spring up
for the walkers and the drivers
and the two-wheelers, four-wheelers,
unicyclist sects. But he knows
as I bed him for the night,
as I smooth the day from his withers
and ease loneliness from his back,
that I am grateful—
despite these chattering complaints,
these moribund doubts I sleeve against daylight—
he knows I’m grateful for the ride.