Julia Watson: Poem: August 2020


As for being a bonafide Southerner, I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and have lived on the panhandle of Florida (aka the culturally southern part of Florida) and in North Carolina in my adulthood.

Summers on the Mountain Town

I. Sneaking Out Behind Grandma’s

Sis & I trail Starla on gravel roads clutching mobile homes. Two hours
’til 2009. One mile out— the shotgun church. How they love Him
so. A blue chevy rumbles like a soaked cough. A lady puffs on pot. Smoke
cleaves to the chipped spire. The boys’ll meet us at the Walmart. We hole up
in roadside trenches. We hide from whirring cars. Everybody knows everything.
The sign blinks between stars. Starla kisses me. Midnight. 

II. 44th Annual County Fair

Guillotined cigs fester by the ring toss. A guy winks at Sis, asks to eat
her out. Not hungry, she replies & hides, trailing a tired Shetland. I ride
a ramshackle ferris wheel with Starla, with Danny. Sickly-sweet
fumes of funnel cake & kippered meat coated in molasses penetrate
the gauzy mask of fog. A coyote sulks in the carpark. 

III. Shiloh Trailer Park, Danny’s Room

Said he broke it off with his girl & digs my blonde curls, wants to be my first
kiss. Posters of tan, naked women plaster the walls. Pouty lips, pink nipples
like overblown noses, & squeaky clean vaginas stare back at me.
My undershirt itches. I hear Starla moan from the barn. Danny licks my lip. 

IV. Grandma’s Kitchen

Pork chops sizzle, yellow fat pops, Kraft bubbles in a rinky-dink pot—
Grandma’s savory perfume. Sis masks her plum’d neck, says Starla’s knocked up,
that Danny’s a fag, and Everybody knows. When the cicadas croon, I rub my eyes
against Grandma’s starchy collar. I sleep in mama’s bed, certain why she left. Oh
the porch swing, it weeps. 

V. Red Jeep Cherokee

Sis reeks of mud & tobacco. Her hair is dreggy, draping. We finger white wonder
bread & tuna while Mama sips lukewarm Folgers. Says traffic’s lousy & best be
on our way
. Grandma kisses her & Sis, squeezes me. We pass the Walmart.
Our descent illuminated. Its light flickers like the North Star.