by Dante Di Stefano
I could die there at the Chevron Food Mart,
be reborn at the Kangaroo Express,
and die again at the Oxford Gas Mart.
I could die eating chicken on a stick,
make art from clogged arteries, and express
the perfect poem in the shape of thick
sweet potato fries. I could die between
the aisles of beef jerky and Valvoline.
When I die, the guy behind the counter
has got to be named Dug, spelled D-U-G,
and he’s got to smile, so as to counter
the somberness of all mortality.
Dug, let my life be like catfish deep fried:
crisp, good, dashed with hot sauce before I die.
Dante Di Stefano currently works as a high School English teacher in his hometown of Binghamton, New York. His work has appeared most recently in Poetry, Quarter After Eight, and The Hollins Critic, and he says this poem is part of a collection that connects his travels in the South and the great people he's met.
by David W. Landrum
in memory of Earl Wade Beckwith
At the sleepy station
where lizards grey as dust scurried,
fleet-footed, over berms of baking stone
and tracks gleamed in relentless sun,
the car pulled up, the Russians disembarked—
grey uniforms, red stars, red epaulettes
and smiles and handshakes;
later you would learn they were
in training at Fort Smith and would
be shipped back to contested steppes
to use the skills (whatever the skills were)
they had learned here.
One gave you his red star.
Neither you nor he could speak
except by smiles, except by attitudes
that indicated friendship.
They climbed up when the whistle blew
and went into the distance
wavy with heated air,
fragrant with tar-smell from ties
soft-warmed in sun,
the caboose fading off
far past the spot imagination’s line
drew to a point, beyond experience.
David W. Landrum is originally from Arkansas but lives and teaches in Michigan. He says this poem is a part of his family lore. "My cousin met Russian soldiers who had come to train in Fort Smith, Arkansas, during World War II and had the artificat mentioned in the poem - an encounter he related that has always intrigued me," he says. David's poetry has appeared in such journals as Gloom Cupboard, Small Brushes, The Formalist, Clapboard House, and many others. He also edits the
by Kati-Jane Hammet
High in the dark, eyes closed and stretching to listen,
Listening, then, for something inside to be reflected
Outwards, light flashing through the bamboo shades and the shades
of eyelids, tight, moving with the tempo of tentative touches
on the tin roof, skin melding with the worn leather of the couch,
Slipping sideways, stuck, breath rising through the cage of ribs—
Up to the ceiling, or further out, and in, then where sight stops,
Even in the dark, and the gathering concussion of air and water
Displaced by sound, ripping through the night.
Then the silence.
Kati-Jane Hammet, a graduate student at the University of South Alabama, lives in downtown Mobile, which she has added to her collection of Southern port cities. She attended the College of Charleston and grew up making regular pilgrimages to Savannah to shop at the mall in the years before her hometown of Bluffton, South Carolina, got known and swoll up with newcomers.
by Heather Wilkins
There is a swing upon the boughs
of a snow-laced southern oak tree,
and painted on its seat does smile
a red-faced strawberry.
The stark contrast does give away
its hiding place in white;
to catch a glimpse of such bright red
is quite a lovely sight.
What gentle bout of loveliness
this little fruit does shed—
to sit alone against the cold
and still to burn so red.
So keep your smile every day
until the summer you see,
and watch the ashen snow give way
to the red-faced strawberry.
Heather Wilkins is a native of Alabama and currently a graduate student at the University of South Alabama in the English program. She enjoys writing poetry dealing with animals and environmental concerns.
by Erren Geraud Kelly
there's nothing sadder
than looking at the paper
and seeing a picture of brown pelicans
covered in progress
this summer, kids will collect tar balls
like they collect seashells
the flood that came to new orleans
came to nashville, too
but it was just god's tears
he cried in anger
as he exacted his revenge on us
karma is a bitch
and she always wins
so, taste this toxic gumbo
and enjoy it
we won't care if
the headphones from
our cell phones give us
cancer in a few years
it's just a small price to pay
for keeping up with the joneses
isn't that what cancer is
anyway, a growth that doesn't
enjoy your oyster po-boy
while you can
by Nicholas Ward
for Mark Edmundson and the Homeric heroes
At the University they call it narcissism.
But pride tastes like metal
And blood. Smells like gun powder
And gasoline. Sounds like hounds
On a scent. Granddad said
He could listen to dogs run
Forever and die a happy man.
It looks like nothing, eyes
Closed kissing. Feels like
Sweat burn, true grit, victorious.
And I won’t even mention
That where I’m from, they
Can’t even spell narcissism,
Or care to. Neither could
Achilles. Nature only cares
For strength and beauty,
And some can’t spell beauty
Either. But they know pretty
And they howl righteously,
Free from chains and shame, collars
Gnawed off, wolves not yet forgotten.
A native of Greene County, Virginia, Nicholas Ward currently lives in Charlottesville, where he is finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia. His experiences in rural central Virginia influence his work, and he is interested in bridging the gap between the world of academia at Mr. Jefferson’s University and the nearby rustic foothills of the Blue Ridge.
by N. A’Yara Stein
One night on the crunchy sand of Biloxi
my mother lay with my father and i
became I. The stars, she said, whispered;
her husband was a distant silken conspirator.
Afterwards, they returned to their sparring
and to the delta with its raped cotton plants
in reddened soil. They toiled, oiled the machines
almost ferverishly as the doomed do.
Don't you? Haven't you? Never? I have
want of luxury but not fury.
Easy promises slipped bee-like from tongues
and children's ears grew numb with fear
of the way things fall apart and people disappear.
N. A’Yara Stein is a Romani-American poet and writer living on a chicory farm and has been nominated twice for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Born in Memphis, she holds an MFA from the University of Arkansas and has been published in The New Orleans Review, The Birmingham Poetry Review, The Oxford American, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Crossroads: a Journal of Southern Culture, Great Midwestern Quarterly, and Poetry Motel. She currently lives near Chicago with her sons and is looking for a book publisher.
by Darryl Willis
Pedestals are designed for urns
and figurines but not for priests and parsons.
Stained glass and sacred art cannot
hide a heart stained by greed and pride.
And I so long ago seemed far too strong
to fall victim to the lesser sins
of lust and rage and drunkenness. My flock
held me in respect (and I confess,
not without a little awe). And when
I walked into a room they turned to me
and gave a smile and nod of deference.
When the parish built for me a brand
new parsonage to honor my long years
of service I could not see what
was plain as the pious look pasted
on my face: how I manipulated
and cajoled to get what I thought I
deserved. Now as I gaze into my
avaricious eyes (as in a mirror
darkly) I can see all so clearly
now: my glass house is filled with stones.
Darryl Willis lives in Texas, and this poem was originally published in Eclectic Flash Literary Journal, Volume 1, September 2010. More of his work can be found on his blog at www.poema2009.blogspot.com.
by Tracy Sopko
As summer painted
the night with thunder,
Time collapsed down
on the grass, his legs
akimbo, his white hair
mussed about his head
like the stuffing pulled
from a too-loved teddy bear.
Soft flashes of fairy light
danced in and out
of the subtly bruised clouds.
Death grew roots
out of his walking shoes,
buried his toes into the dirt,
dropped his hood
and made the decision to
take the night off.
The stillness of the Southern
night was complete.
Tracy Sopko was born and raised in small Florida town, hovering, like the state itself, on the fringes of Southern culture. She currently lives in Jacksonville and attends the University of North Florida.
Harlan D. Whatley
I park the blue Chevy ragtop
Down by the old Coast Guard station.
There are lots of cars in the parking lot
Which means the beach is really crowded today.
As I stroll down the sandy beach
I think about how I got here
And how relaxing St. Simons Island is
Compared to the big city where I used to live.
The people here are as friendly as can be
And nobody is in a big hurry.
The seafood and local cuisine is delicious
And the sunsets are beautiful to watch.
So when I feel a little blue
I go down to the pier in the village
Or sometimes I go to see old Harry
Who serves me a most palatable vintage.
Harlan D. Whatley is a native of North Louisiana whose poetry has been published in the Birmingham Arts Journal, Heavy Hands Ink, Papercut and Poets for Living Waters. He currently teaches English in Zhengzhou, China.