Southern legitimacy statement: Chub Petersen’s mama didn’t teach him the necessity of summer underthings when he sat in shorts playing marbles on my front sidewalk. Consequently I received an early education in anatomy, albeit not a very welcome one. I was not skilled in marbles. That was my sister’s domain. She became an accountant courtesy of a Tuscaloosa education. I became a poet courtesy of all the words which insisted on living in my head. With some education thrown in for good measure. It eventually led me to an Alabama mountaintop, where I met Sox, a charming mule who, the last I saw him, was very much alive.
The Taste of the Young
Succulents are a freak of nature.
Come here, boy. Let me tell you
about real plants, waving, twining,
root deep, reach-for-the-stars frond tips.
They’ll change your skinny life.
Come, boy, down to the hardwoods
wearing their summer green.
Slip yourself through the tangle of underbrush,
damp leaves clotting at your feet,
the mulch of death sucking you into its soothing bed.
Follow the stream to the west end,
to the edge where the poplars thin
and the sun begins to spread its skirt
over the fattened ground. Never mind
the thorns; the vines are not confused.
They know exactly how to please you
with their blackish seeds.
Purple your mouth here, boy.
Stain your white hands.
Color your whiskerless chin dark
and dark, until you understand
the taste of young. You’ll find no
fat-leaved, hunched-to-ground thirsters
here. It’s all in the rain, boy.
All in the cold, driving rain.