Matthew Johnson :: Three Poems for October ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am not Southern by birth, though the South has become an adopted home, having been a resident of Greensboro, NC for a few years now. I carry many of my upstate New York and New England sensibilities with me (and according to some, my accent still), but like the South, and the country in general, it’s all complicated and mixed. I take comfort in the South through my family history: through the resilience and determination of my ancestors in Antebellum America, and where I have had cherished visits with my grandparents in the Mississippi Delta and Southern Texas.

Three Poems for October

Getting the Switch

In parched patches of brown grass,
Overwatered in a flood of sunshine
During the rainless spell of summer,
A sniveling grandchild, 
Walking through the bald spots on the lawn,
Looks back to the adult on the backyard porch,
Who has suddenly stood up from their favorite patio chair,
Elevating their voice, and gesturing to the blubbering child,
Who is unable to muster up a voice because they’re choking on tears.
The elder simply shakes their head as the child pulls different branches;
This is the procedure until the child has selected the most appropriate one…

Late January in Carolina

I was awakened by an automated call, saying the office was closed, 
And that hours would be made up around a lesser holiday to be determined;
I figure it’s going to be President’s Day in a few weeks. 
With the city shut down for a few inches, I go out for a walk,
And could already see the blue sky of Carolina, 
By its nature, willing itself through the overcast, its clouds, curling atop one another.
I go for a walk through my apartment complex;
I do not know another resident within the grounds, but in seeing a filled parking lot, 
With several cars having lifted their wiper blades, and many others, have not, 
I can already speculate who are the true-and-blue Carolinians.
Just a handful of steps out of the walkway and onto the snow-covered street,
I fall and hit the back of my head.
The ice that emptied the trees, and was clear as fiberglass under crystals of snow,
Relayed a jolt throughout my body that sends me back indoors.

Growing Pains for the Prettiest Girl in a Small Town

In some backwater podunk,
Grown men seated in country store porches,
Drunk from the lone watering hole 
In the one-horse town,
Fumble trying to gather themselves, and sit up straight,
As Main Street becomes an unwelcomed catwalk
Of gazes and giggles,
Of pigs catcalling and wolf-whistling,  
For the developing, teenage legs
Which happen to walk a turn
On the downtown runway,  
Just trying to fulfill mother’s errands.