Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in Florida. And that certainly doesn’t count. Surrounded by rich Yankees for twenty-some-odd years, I had no idea what the South was about. But I came to Tennessee sixty years ago and went to Vanderbilt, one of the most important breeding grounds of dead mules.
I learned a lot about Southern Literature from Ransom, Davidson, Tate, Warren, and those guys. Even learned about “mushmillions” from Cleanth Brooks, even though he was a Yankee. I settled in and stayed, and that’s when I started learning about the real South. You know, pitch-forking hay, ornery sheriffs, English ballads turned hillbilly music, Arcadian under-achievers, and all that. And I will be quick to admit I stole that reference to farmers right out of the mouth of Gamble Rogers, one of the most neglected Southern raconteurs in history. And to think, I grew up with Gamble in Florida, not knowing till later how Southern he was, cracker to the bone.
** A sonnet, ya’ll. How cool is that?
The Last Time He Tried
My cousin Tom tugged at my skirt belt, played
a crooked tune along my neck, his sly
fingers whispering my breath away.
Head on my shoulder, his tongue butterflied
my ear, his huff and hiss steaming my hair. I
shook my head, pulled his hand out of my blouse
and linked my fingers in his. Not now. My
mama will find us. I pecked him on the mouth
to say, that’s enough. He hissed, Let’s play house
and walked his fingers the curve of my back.
South. I squirmed away. North. Up my blouse
fumbling my bra. Not yours, I barked. No shack
for you! He whined as his hand lingered
assward. I smacked him, gave him the finger.