by Martha Lyons
It’s a Sunday afternoon
And I’m watching To Kill a Mockingbird again.
I’ve read the book and
Seen the movie
I don’t know how many times.
It takes me home
To a small southern town,
Deep in summer.
The air hot and humid,
Heavy with the sweet scent of honeysuckle.
Children can play outside
In the mysterious summer night.
Inside, the windows are open and
Curtains sway gently,
Blown by a lazy fan.
Is not lost on a child, who dreams
Of popsicles and bike rides,
And playing marbles in the dust
Under an old maple tree.
Martha Lyons was born and raised in Winnsboro, Louisiana, and received her BA in English from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She was halfway through a master’s degree in literature when her husband (now ex) took her away to Orange County, California. She took up writing again through classes at a junior college there and "was lucky enough to have Michelle Mitchell-Foust as my professor, and she gave me the courage to write," says Martha. Poems like this one and "Southern Funeral," also published in our "Poetry" section, help her stay in touch with her Southern roots and feel closer to home.
by Ross Cavins
A typical Summer Sunday in my childhood …
Seventy degrees and sunny, a puffy white cloud here and there.
Afternoon softball games with relatives in the oversized front yard.
Children and grown-ups play without perspiring,
The aroma of honeysuckles strong and sweet in the warm air.
Fun is everywhere;
The newly cut thick green carpet of centipede grass spongy beneath our feet,
The freshly oiled leather gloves soft in our hands,
The crack of the bat and a friendly scream to run,
A bright laughter dancing in everyone's eyes,
Sweet tea with ice cubes and tart lemon wedges sweating in old jelly jar glasses.
Afterwards, the charcoal is doused with lighter fluid from a squeezy metal can,
Salad is tossed with store-bought iceberg lettuce, garden-grown juicy tomatoes,
Julienne carrot strips, hot-tasting radishes, slivers of green and red bell peppers,
Slices of vine-ripened cucumbers.
Hamburger patties are lumpy, hand-made with Worcestershire sauce and ketchup and
Onion soup mix and minced garlic.
Placed on the grill when it's hot enough to sizzle,
Grease-fed orange flames engulfing them with hisses of smoky flavor.
The ice cream maker is plugged in and filled with milk and sugar and
Vanilla extract and mashed bananas, surrounded by rock salt and ice and
Running like a sputtering outboard motor.
Buns are toasted with pats of real butter
by Martha Lyons
The sweat trickles between my shoulder blades and down my back.
It is hot as hell in this room.
Papa died two days ago.
We are all waiting in a small white clapboard church
In a small north Louisiana town
To say our final goodbyes.
The air is almost visible with humidity.
There is a sound – the whoosh of paper fans.
I catch a whiff of Shalimar.
Finally the speaking is over and it is time for the last viewing.
I leave through the front door.
I do not want to see.
The empty grave is waiting for its owner.
Martha Lyons was born and raised in Winnsboro, Louisiana, and received her BA in English from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She was halfway through a master’s degree in literature when her husband (now ex) took her away to Orange County, California. She took up writing again through classes at a junior college there and "was lucky enough to have Michelle Mitchell-Foust as my professor, and she gave me the courage to write," says Martha. Poems like this one and another, titled "Mockingbird Summer," which we'll run later in the season, help her stay in touch with her Southern roots and feel closer to home.
by Nancy Dutton
A slice of Southern Spirit,
Entering my life again,
A breath of fresh air,
Blowing through my day
In this transformational time.
She reminds me of lighter days,
Carefree living and ways.
Whoosh, a wave of love,
A feeling of freedom,
Such ease in giving.
All is well for now
The following poem was the winning entry in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama's contest in celebration of National Poetry Month in April.
by Denise McKinney of Selma, Alabama
Gulf Shores is my favorite place
Such a friendly, pretty, open space
Beautiful beaches, waves and sunsets
Having to leave will be your only regrets
Looking forward to my return
Swimming, tanning and even the sun burn
Gulf Shores is my favorite town
Fun during the day and when the lights go down
So come for a visit
You don't want to miss it
White sandy beaches
Warm rays of sun
Gulf Shores has all of the family fun!
A Q&A With Tupelo Poet Patricia Neely-Dorsey
by Erin Z. Bass
Patricia Neely-Dorsey grew up in Tupelo, Miss., and is a 1982 graduate of Tupelo High School. She attended Boston University, then moved to Memphis for almost 20 years, before returning to her home state in 2007. Moving back into the house she grew up in sparked lots of memories that first year, so much so that Dorsey began to write down her thoughts on paper. Her book of poems, "Reflections Of A Mississippi Magnolia," was published in February of 2008.
In honor of National Poetry Month, Dorsey spoke with Deep South about her style of poetry, growing up in Mississippi and how she was influenced by writers like Eudora Welty. With titles like "Mississippi Through and Through, "Southern Man," Right to Vote" and "Making Cracklings," there's no denying the sense of place in Dorsey's writing. You can find several of her poems from the book in our Southern Voice section, and her book is sold on Amazon, at Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore in Tupelo and several other independent bookstores in Mississippi.
How did you start writing poetry?
I never thought about being a writer. It kind of came to me in my sleep
The following four poems by Patricia Neely-Dorsey of Tupelo, Mississippi, were taken from her book "Reflections Of A Mississippi Magnolia" in honor of National Poetry Month in April. Read our interview with her here.
In the old country church,
Preaching Sunday was quite a big deal;
In just a few words, I'll give you a feel.
White gloved ushers monitor each bench and pew,
Wearing uniforms starched to look like brand new.
Little girls decked out in ruffles and bows,
Sit with mothers in hats sharp
From their heads to their toes.
The minister quotes scriptures
With deep breaths
And a long pause,
He makes so dramatic each and every clause.
At the end of the message, when some hymn is sung,
Shouts ring out between every rung.
There's jerking and fanning and some falling out,
Small ones wonder what all the commotion's about.
When everything's over and the service is done,
Everyone enjoys a grand feast on the lawn.
Dill Pickles in a jar
Point out what you want
Behind the glass.
Service with a smile.
Home folks you know.
Right to Vote
I love to hear the stories,
That my mama and daddy tell;
Sometimes, we'll just sit a while,
And they'll talk for a spell.
They've told me of how hard it was,
by Chuck Perkins
If your American dream is painted on a canvas
Neatly folded in the corner of Norman Rockwell’s mind-
New Orleans is a hurricane beating down your coast
by Darrell Bourque
Since that afternoon years ago
when my mother put us on our knees
and told us she was leaving,
I have placed myself in the world,
measured myself against the horizon,
let the sky cover me like some angel bird
hovering. I have seen wide ribbons
of pine making a trot-line at the earth's edge.
I have studied things up-close; stunted trees
growing out of rock. I have gone beyond
tree lines where grasses open seedpods
like prayers. I have stood at the water's
edge and wobbled, and still no one
knows who knifed the unreadable lettering
on my mother's new cedar chifferobe
that day. She and my father drove to town
to buy garfish for our usual Friday supper
at my aunt's house. We were questioned again
on her return but no one confessed -through
the fish cleaning, the seasoning, the frying.
I can't remember when exactly we laughed
and ran through the yard with our cousins.
It was night when we went home. We were happy.
Just last week, some fifty years later,
one of us brings it up in my mother's
presence. She has not walked for years
and it is no big matter to her now,
but none of us are fessing up today either.
We all know who didn't do it,
and one of us knows who did.
Bourque's poem tells the story