Brittany J. Barron: Poetry : February 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Gainesville, Georgia, and raised in Flowery Branch with a Southern-Belle attitude to prove it. At my granny’s house, gossip may as well be a side dish during Sunday lunch. When I am not writing poetry, you can find me quoting Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty.

Daddy’s Walks

Daddy takes solitary walks along our dirt road.
The day our dog dies, the spring never seems to end—
cypress leaves fall from the sky, the color of pearls—
I love Daddy when he’s walking away, cypress leaves falling.

The day our dog dies, the spring never seems to end—
our tulips don’t know whether to wilt or stay—
I love Daddy when he’s walking away, cypress leaves falling,
wearing his button-up shirt, like a schoolboy.

The spring the tulips don’t know whether to wilt or stay,
I don’t tell Daddy that I fold him into my prayers.
I imagine him wearing his button-up shirt, a schoolboy.
I imagine I am the baby girl he once held in his arms.

I don’t tell Daddy that I fold him into my prayers.
We exchange small words on the days we talk.
I’m not the baby girl he held in his arms.
I wonder if he thinks of her on his solitary walks.

All the Names I’ve Ever Been

Call me Baby Daughter.
Mama shares stories
I collect
to tell my babies.
Your grandmother
milked a cow
named Betsy.
When she pinched
her udder,
Betsy kicked
the milk pail.
It spilled
across the barn.

Call me Little Sister.
I worship Sissy
outside her bedroom
door, peek
through the cracks
and watch her sleep
in her sickbed.

Call me Doe.
She blinks
in your head-
lights as if you’re
the last drop
of spring water.

Call me Water.
In the pool
above the pulpit
when I was saved
I didn’t see God.
I still wonder
if Preacher needed
to hold me under
deeper
and longer.

Call me Little Mad Girl.
I pose
in Mama’s wedding dress—
white like the inside
of a coffin—
the collar presses
against my neck.

Don’t you call me the spitting image
of my grandmother.
I rummage in
Granny’s jewelry box.
Her clip-on pearl
earrings pinch
my skin like her fingers
pinch my belly.
One day,
you’ll be beautiful.
One day,
you’ll be a lily.

If you call me Granddaughter again,
I’ll swallow the name
as I would Granny’s blackberries
so tart tears well up in my eyes.
I watch her old hands sew
quilts of wedding rings,
quilts of Danish girls,
quilts of pink and blue.

Call me Flowery Branch—
forever home
to dogwoods—
forever home
to where Mad Girl
was born and buried—
forever home
to the sweetest blues
below Blue Ridge.

Butterflies

When I overhear Mama saying thyroid storm
and thyroid and the gland shaped like a butterfly,
I imagine a butterfly in the eye of a hurricane.
Wings flapping until the flapping ends.

In my first-grade classroom, I dedicate a class project
to Sissy. I write, she never is around people much,
except me. She gets sick, but I don’t know
what sick means. I lie to my classmates. I tell them,
Sissy is engaged to be married. A prince sneaks through her window.
Or, She is traveling to the rain forest, to the desert, to the sea,
and she wants to take me. This time next year, we’ll leave.