Rosalie Hendon :: Poetry ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: Though my parents met in their home state of Ohio, they settled in Tallahassee, Florida to start their family. I was born in Tallahassee and lived there till I was 18. I then studied at the University of Georgia before moving to Ohio to be close to extended family. My other southern connection is to Quito, Ecuador, where I met my husband as a foreign exchange student.


Being in your 30s means
you are half a lifetime removed from adolescence.
A fact that seems impossible to you
and glaringly obvious to every teenager,
including your past teenaged self, which you recall now

30 seemed ancient and far removed,
like Babylon or the pyramids,
foreign and irrelevant to your life

Suddenly you are here,
occupying this decade with
various shades of reluctance.
When you were half this age,
you had big, vague plans. Or no plans.
Just a sense that everything would have worked out by now.

Instead you are swept up in the minutiae of adulthood,
feeling time moving faster
when you aren’t looking, children
growing like weeds, jobs
a blur of pay periods into years,
and it’s just as everyone older than you
has always said, but you never could
quite bring yourself to believe them

Love Letter to Florida

Calf-deep in the current
hydrilla scritch scratching skin
Thickets flowing downstream
Water clear as a dream, as a song
Cypress knees lurk, ready to stab
the soft arch of an unsuspecting foot

I miss you, Florida
I miss the cicada chorus
the Spanish moss
The spring water, so fresh and so cold
The sinkholes, the rivers, the sea
Water, always welcoming

I’m making it work with Ohio,
getting out on the water.
Every time I say I miss swimming in rivers,
the natives grimace–
“Wouldn’t recommend it.”
Too many sewage outfalls.
Too much silt, broken bottles, diesel.

How lucky we were to be teens in North Florida.
Canoeing the Wacissa, two-liters bobbing in our wake.
Tying up to private docks or a cypress for a swim.
Goggling at the Blue Hole,
hundreds of feet of turquoise depths.
The mottled elephant skin of a manatee,
the call of the snake bird,
the wink of the alligator.

We take our pristine childhood for granted,
move somewhere with three rivers and four interstates,
Results as expected.
Paddling under the 70/71 interchange,
can’t escape the roar of traffic,
the graffiti on concrete, the human detritus.

Florida, you are what Ohio dreams about.