Southern Legitimacy Statement: Kristina Heflin spent her formative years hiking in the Georgian foothills of the Appalachians. It was there she learned a love for all animals, from the squishy frogs of the backwoods criks to the bumbling bears of the piney mountains. Today, she passes on her love and technique for horseback riding, teaching lessons in a small Alabama community. Her Carolina Dog, Jessie, is her favorite piece of the South.
“Me and Bobby McGee” jolts
through snapping lace curtains
from the fatalistic arm of a turn table
not the soulful, chart-topping Joplin tune
but the gravelly voice and strings
of the songwriter himself
staking a final claim on what’s his.
Miss Alma May is staking her claim too.
Tom and Matthew from down the road
piled sand bags and boarded windows
before leaving town with wives and kids
loaded into oversized SUVs.
They closed everything but that bay window.
The one that really overlooks a bay
with its black and greys and greens.
Old bones settle into white wicker
while tired eyes gaze around.
At least most of the art is fake
yard sale replicas of pieces
she’d always meant to see.
It will be a shame to see all that vinyl and ink
spreading like a shiny carpet on the lagoon
her living room is about to become.
He would have thought to put those things
those important things, into a safe
or waterproof room. Then again
he was always better at foresight.
She wonders if he will see her coming
because now, with the salt spray crackling
across her hardwood floors, she knows
she has nothing left to lose.
How to Ride a Horse
Go ahead and put your foot in the stirrup.
Not that foot.
There you go.
Easy, lift, set yourself down gently.
(Oh, that poor horse!)
Now, you can use this rein for left, and that one for right,
but don’t let me catch you tugging on his mouth.
This isn’t a cowboy movie.
Use your legs and your seat to guide him.
He’s smarter than your poodle, your cat, and your bumper sticker honour student.
Treat him that way.
Now go ahead, you can start.
One, two, three, four.
Don’t forget to breathe.
One, breathe, three, breathe.
One, breathe, three, breathe.
Feel like trotting?
Squeeze gently now, and lift from your pelvis.
Rise and fall with the leg on the wall.
One-two, up-down, one-down, two-down.
(Dear God, what have I done to that poor horse?)
Okay, that’s good for now.
Where do you go from here?
Well, keep practising.
Never stop practising.
Then one day go out and empty your bank account to get one of your own.
Or maybe two.
And of course they need to eat.
And have their feet trimmed.
And have saddles, and bridles, and rain blankets in five different colours with their names on them.
You can forget what it’s like to have a clean car
or clothes without bits of hay stuck in all the corners
or restful nights wondering if you can remember a pattern you’ve done dozens of times.
You’ll upgrade your phone just to fit more pictures of their silly faces
and if your family doesn’t start to worry about you, they really should.
But none of that will ever happen, will ever matter,
if first you don’t learn how to ride.
So why don’t you take another turn around the arena?
And don’t forget to breathe.
Scarlett and Tara
if man was made of dirt
woman was formed
from thick red fistfuls
of Georgia clay
icy arteries and
ash burned earth
remains of two
of American fiefdom
wrapped in their own
knowing that no
matter how destitute
there is always money
to be picked
from cotton fields
the family name
and pockets of
love stricken men