This Really Does Matter

A few years ago – while living in the South – I became aware of a new holiday. I went to get a document signed for my son at the state-run immunization clinic. The clinic was closed on a Monday in late April. Later that day, when we didn’t get any mail, I asked what was going on. It was Confederate Memorial Day.

Tragic events over the past year from Ferguson to Texas to New York and beyond coupled with a road trip that included a series of civil rights stops reminded me of a poem that I wrote shortly after learning about Confederate Memorial Day. I invite you to think about it.

April 26

A boy mows the field next to the
Senior Center: offices locked.
Blue bars and stars decorate
signs out front.

Southern mists rise, pulling names
from graves - a haunting -
families foraged from left over
people who did not foresee faults.

Collards and black-eyed peas glance
at luck; chicken and dumplings
bridge only religion - not

Those keys are kept 
in generational vaults - 
though quick acquaintance
can be had over pond seining - 
fish fries - or moonshine.

They won't look, but fingers crossed and
casseroles cover wounds and scars
built in eternity.

There is no end.

His grandfather is buried at Mr. Elam's 
feet - there's a rub that cannot
be dug up.

Recollected history means more
on this day than textbooks
and undiluted sweet tea memories
float up Freeman Harris Road.

This is more than we think it is.


3 thoughts on “This Really Does Matter

  1. Love your poem, Laura. Here is something I wrote in about fifteen minutes, thinking some of the same thoughts as you were in your poem. (If not exactly):

    In a far-off land, they begged for a new prince
    Nowhere to be found
    Someone who would release them from harm
    Of ghosts of many a haunted ground.

    (Huzzah, Dixie, huzzah! God’s glory for Thee!)

    Their flags flying throughout the land,
    “There’s no problem,” they all said
    “Everyone will adopt them,” and we’ll all feel
    Like our ‘raison d’etre’ was never dead….

    Certain poets echoed the dreams of every
    Fair-skinned fourteen year-old boy
    ‘Our cause was just, our cause was right,’
    Only a self-proclaimed republic stealing joy….

    (And the ghostly trees at Christmas in Oxford exclaim one sad, last song):

    Southern magnolia-scented courtyards
    Girls with curls and pettycoats
    Boys with smoking bullets instead of manhood,
    A blue-suited general content with burning roads…

    But no one could ever justify,
    Or anyone should dare to say,
    That those who came from afar,
    Should hang from a tree.


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