J. O. Winberry :: Birdhouse ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am perhaps somewhat controversially Southern in that I was born and raised, and currently reside, in Southern California. We are the nail in the boot, the thorn in the side, the worm in the tequila of Northern California. I was 15 the first time I met a Northern Californian at a youth leadership conference in DC – he loathed me from the start. He assumed I was dumb because I was blonde and tan and probably used the word “like” too much. I’m sure the shark-tooth necklace didn’t help. It was the first time I felt shame for where I was from, how I spoke, and what I looked like. This repeated in college when I attended a small liberal arts school full of east coast kids and again when I moved to Washington, DC (albeit DC has its own Southern heritage – and as they say, “Northern Charm, Southern Efficiency”). It took decades for me to shake the feeling that I need to be different – more formal and stern, less goofy and laidback – in order for people to think I’m intelligent. Now at 37 I couldn’t care less. I love where I’m from and who I am. And while I might not be from the traditional South, in both spirit and geography I am most certainly Southern.


I live in a house of early birds:
my man, my kid, my dog, my cat, my cat,
and my other cat.
Some days we rise like morning fog; 
some days like squabbling robins.
My man, he leaves early to feed 
people for money, in order to feed
my kid, my dog, my cat, my cat, and my other cat, 
and me.
There are too many meals in a day,
too many mouths,
too many ways to cry, “I’m hungry,” “I’m hungry,” and “I’m still hungry.”
We plant cucumbers and hope for sun and rain
We weed the yard carefully,
making sure to re-home the worms.
“They make fertile soil,” my kid says,
“they’ll dry out in the sun.” 
We dig down in the soft dirt and place
their wriggling bodies in little hollows. 
Tucked in and away, 
safe from the early birds, 
their quiet existence feeding 
the earth, my man, my kid, 
my dog, my cat, my cat, and my other cat,
and me.