2014 Poetry Contest Winner


“Responsibility” We cleaned
our houses. Moved, sometimes before dirt collected. My mother, with a Taurus
.357 magnum tucked under her arm at the grocery store— or rather, the food pantry—galley kitchen in back of Holy Spirit. The real reason I still follow
the catechism. Because I know what it’s like to be truly hungry. Calm sea, startled
ocean. It is The Man who is to blame, too— meaning Boss Man meaning Ku Klux meaning
stocks and bad investments. My mother just as many hundreds of thousands of dimes in debt
as I am. We are double loops in an unending chain: child beggar, gold-star report card. Six kids to bathe
in one outdoor tub. Granny making the Frank House clean. Maw Maw dipping snuff. Ms. Johnson tells me
I can always pick cotton. Feel my lips, Mom would say, my small hands pressed against her throat and mouth.
Feel the vibrations, she’d say. Deep South extracted from my throat before it could root. We are not of the tribe,
we are a nation: fifteen burials at every stopping place, sickness with each mile. Little Wolf says
the shaman woman walks in front of my mother carrying a woven blanket, white. That I am late,
that I am never late. Thank You. [Applause]

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