Gregory Luce : Three Poems : July 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Texas. Have never lived above the Mason-Dixon Line. Drawn to southern weather and landscapes. Grew up saying y’all and now advocate for it becoming the official second person plural in English.

Three Poems

Tornado Year

That was the year

we almost lost everything,

he said.

You were, what, about 7?

Eight, she said,

I was in third grade.

And it’d rained all day,

he said, and then 

the hail started 

and I was praying 

Not the wheat

Lord, not the wheat, 

and then lightning hit 

the barn and it goddamn

fell down smoking,

never seen such a thing,

and right then

your school bus

pulled up and the wheat

was getting smashed down….

The hail was hitting

the bus so hard, she said,

it sounded like we were

being shot at.

You looked so scared,

when you got off the bus

you were crying.

I wasn’t scared, 

I was crying because

the wind blew off

that stupid paper crown

I got for doing

the best drawing 

of Snow White

and my hair was 

getting soaked. I

never even saw….

You always did have

pretty hair just like

your mama. He blinked

and coughed.
Sorry, smoke.

He took another drag.

Your mama always

hated that I smoked these

things. I said to her

dang it, I don’t drink

or play cards and 

I don’t hardly ever swear,

these things are all 

I got. Anyways

you hadn’t taken 

two steps off the bus

when I just happened

to look up and them

clouds were spinning

and that goddamn

funnel dropped 

heading straight

at the bus, it was all

happening so fast, 

I was running like hell

to grab you and I was

saying Damn you, God, 

first you took Ellie, and now

my wheat and my barn,

don’t take my girl,

and the lightning hit

seemed like right behind me,

I could feel the jolt

and the little hairs

were standing up on my arms…

Me too, she said.

… and I thought, dang,

the next one’s for me

but I grabbed you up

and run for the house, 

and just like that it

all stopped, the sun 

came out like nothing


He lit another cigarette.

As I recall, she said,

the next lightning strike

hit the steeple of 

the First Baptist Church.

That’s right, he said.

Y’know, your mama

always told me God

was a Methodist.


Dark Was the Night

Haints are afoot

as Blind Willie Johnson

sidles out of Waco

without eyes he sees

shadows black as the night sky,

haints sliding along

the cold graveyard ground

like a penknife down the neck

of a battered guitar.


Into the Swamp

The light is failing, Love,

and mist is slowly rising

from the bog with the last

birdcalls receding through

the pines. The emanation

of marsh gas may prick

our nostrils, Love,

but the rustle of cattails

counterpointed with

the plash of frogs

is sure to soothe.

Come, take my arm, Love,

and let us go gentle

into the tea-green twilight.