James Ryer : Poetry : Oct 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: There’s more to the South than culture, food, idiom, hunting, fishing and football. I have been a citizen of the South for a long time. I have seen changes in the demographics, the climate, the culture seen through how we respond to and perceive each other – the native Floridians, the Snowbirds, the corporate amusement parks that unblushingly pushed out the Mom and Pop roadside attractions, the vanishing orange groves (and the migrant workers), the changing color of our politics – none of which I could do much to resist the inevitable changes – other than just try to adapt. And yet I stay.

An Apocalyptic Tale Redux

I had ridden my horse hard 
He was worn down and lame
We moved carelessly down a restless street
In a sun baked, shameless border town
Underlaid with death and rampant desperation
Brimming with cowboys, cheap whiskey,
And honest whores

Through dirty windows we glimpsed 
Subdued but uncontrollable chaos
And the contorted face of a messianic clown 

My horse needed care and rest
I sold him to a young Vaquero 
Who stealthily walked him across
The invisible southern border
Soberly giving me his word
That he would do his best

I needed a bath and a beer
Instead, I caught a Greyhound bus to Texas
Witnessed the President shot in the head
And felt the arc of history violently bend

November 22, 1963 – Dallas – JFK 
April 4, 1968 – Memphis – MLK
June 5, 1968 – Los Angeles – RFK

Assassinations still obscured in shadowy light
Tearing the fabric of the nation’s identity
Opening an apocalyptic path 
Brimming with dark angels, crafted whiskey, 
And political whores

Where do we cleanse our collective souls
Of parasitic sins and sweeping pestilence 

I reach for a redemptive chalice
Brimming with holy living waters
Deftly flavored with sustainable hope

Let us all feel even a modest quenching 
Of our unifying thirst for a redemptive peace