Southern Legitimacy Statement: Michael Ball scrambled from daily and weekly papers through business and technical pubs. Born in OK and raised in rural WV, he became more citified in Manhattan and Boston. As one of the Hyde Park Poets, he has moderate success placing poems in numerous online and print journals and anthologies, and being a feature at several arts centers. He has lived, studied and lived in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.
His To-Do List
Erstwhile uxor, the once wife,
refuses to pour bitterness cocktails,
despite the many ingredients he left her.
Instead speaking to their son of him
she uses neutral tones, citing his virtues.
She ceaselessly has refused to defame him.
This evening though, after a second bourbon,
she tells true. She has long found her
self-pity bone sweet to suck on and chew.
By her adult son, she spits out the small bone.
“Your father,” she said, “was always going to
do something. Tasks I asked were on his to-do list.
He never refused a request. He’d say he meant to.
So, never tell me you were about to do this or that.”
The young man did not question her new candor.
Forever in Service
Oh great and noble,
generous and gracious,
hoary headed maternal unit,
you are kind and pious.
Why do you always atone?
You do for others ceaselessly.
Forever teaching Sunday school,
donating pints of blood.
You are compelled to serve others.
Your own mother was severe.
She baked for church sales, only,
She hugged no one older than six.
Her daughters never pleased her
and she never praised them.
You neither resent her nor whine.
You would rather stand in chains
held to an oak than talk to a shrink.
I am not a priest, not that kind of father.
I am only a son, your son.
Yet I absolve you of all sins,
conceded, observed or imagined.
Would that I could press solace palms,
to each temple, performing a mind meld
and freeing you of your need to serve.
I would provide you such peace,
I would sooth you, heal your mind,
cleansing you of imagined guilt.
I don’t work 50-minute hours.
Perhaps my help is acceptable.
Enough with Wives
P.C., old man, how about one hour without
telling me again about your three wives?
All of us know too well you wore each out
having your babies, or trying to make them.
Christola, that was 40 and 60 years long gone.
And don’t even try to point to my many bits
about my girlfriends — not at all the same.
They were recent enough I can still smell
their fragrances on my shirts and sheets.
No, it is you who drill into our ears as we sit
on nail kegs at the co-op by the pot-bellied stove
or chatting captive on rocks with fishing poles.
We are still hearing of your womenfolk.
Can you go an afternoon without reminiscing
on Ruth and Mary and Nancy, the missuses?
Did nothing other than marriage and crops
happen in your long life of sameness?
In our semicircle round the stove, watching
the red glowing teardrop vents, do your best
not to spit tobacco across the room to an opening,
even though you can hit one while I could not.
Please stifle your bull about your Angus bulls
and leave some air for other stories, my tales.
It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day and I can tell timely
about my red-headed Kathy the fabric artist.
I am sure she was Irish and just as sure that she
adored me more than all your wives loved you.