by Lydia Ondrusek
He takes the hatband off,
unspools a Mississippi of black grosgrain;
too long alone in the dim back room, he talks.
Tells about learning to make hats, shape them to fit
people to whom it was important, a good hat.
A sign of who and what you were.
Tells how gents wore boaters once,
all summer, cool and shady.
“Punched the tops out when the season ended!”
I put my boater on, with its new black ribbon;
tip it to my grandfather,
watching from the past’s dusty mirror.
He raises his own black-banded boater
in salute to summer, and to me.
A good hat is important.
Lydia Ondrusek lives in Richardson, Texas, and often writes about Southern experiences and locations. She has had fiction and poetry published online and in print since 2008 in a diverse range of publications that include Flash Fiction Online and Falling Star Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @littlefluffycat.
by Timothy Perior
My wife and I began in Maryland and ended up
in a small town in Georgia. The house is one of
those large, almost mansion things on a couple
of acres, built pre-civil war. It is great for writing.
We love it. This morning I was rummaging about
in the attic. In an obscure corner I came across an
old disintegrating cloth wrapped package. Between
the darkness and the dust I almost missed it.
I unwrapped the remains of a shawl to find a
brittle leather portfolio. Inside I found a quarter inch
of family financial records; among them a hand
written sheet of aged, fine stationery.
This is what it said.
Oh my darling may I write
Of the worry and the care tonight;
For in the wind a rumor swirls
And twists the soul of all the girls.
For no man is here to save;
No strength of army brave.
What color will we look and see?
Not gray with red striped lovely.
Will the coats of color blue
Come to wreak the devil's due;
To march into our happy home
And cast us to forever roam?
Oh, gallant love, this verse is better
Than if I penned a fretful letter.
My breaking heart could stop this time
If I don't fight my mind for rhyme.
I think of you that storm inside
Of those that
by Kevin Heaton
Levitating apparitions hover in misty
vapor, troubling the face of cypress
waters; suspended between rapture
and mortality, concealing wispy souls
of southern sons not yet at peace.
They seek their general, mounted
on a ghost stallion snorting humid
gunpowder haze, charging at victory;
his sword casting lunar reflections
into Yankee eyes. Troop remnants mark
cadence on gator, and snapper backs;
scouting front lines long ago fallen,
and battles; long since lost.
Kevin Heaton lives and writes in South Carolina. His latest chapbook, "Measured Days," was recently released from Heavy Hands Ink Press, and his work has appeared in Foliate Oak, Elimae, Hanging Moss Journal, Pirene's Fountain and many others. He is listed as a notable poet at KansasPoets.com. To read more of his work, click here.
by Michael Gebelein
It’s always been
hard for me to
things that are unknown.
To feel the embrace
from a different plane
of existence or consciousness
I’ve made a show
of tolerance and acceptance
so hopefully actions
really do tell more
to the world than words.
Leaning in closer
to see the world
with eyes like
a fortune teller on Miami Beach,
or a Baptist preacher in a small Southern town,
a gas station attendant in Cleveland.
Maybe they’ve got it figured out,
but for now I’ll just
lay in this bed with this piece of paper
on a Monday morning with the snow coming in from outside
and a ring of cigarette smoke over the end table.
Letting the world have a short glimpse
before throwing the curtains wide.
Michael Gebelein is a writer living in Asheville, North Carolina.
by Tammy L. Beevers
I watch him each morning,
this blue heron statuesque
in his indigo feather suit.
He crouches, legs folded
and watching as fish flirt
with the water’s edge
The heron strikes,
his beak instantly a skewer,
his neck elongated,
beautiful as an orchid stem.
Startled by sound,
he stretches his wings,
soars, then dives
into the dense green.
Tammy L. Beevers hails from Seneca Falls, New York, but says she's really a born-again Texan who's called Central Texas home for over 30 years. Her poem "Aspen" has been chosen as one of 10 winning poems for San Antonio's Via Metropolitan Transit's “Poetry on the Move” contest during National Poetry Month 2011, and “Texas Panhandle Slow Drive” appears in 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar.
by Tracy Sopko
Dust isn’t so hard to come by in the South.
What with so many sources:
The powdered sugar remnants of primordial bodies,
The sun-burnt flaking paint of seven thousand and thirty two
And the equally scorched and peeling remnants of once-people,
There is enough dust here to inter a culture.
Under the auspices of an isolationist Mason-Dixon
We would coalesce. State lines soften,
Then give way entirely - weather patterns and jet streams
Melding misshapen clods. Swept behind the Mexico-couch
And best left forgotten.
These aren’t memories in the attic
to be brought down a rickety flight of stairs, and
Picked through with the grandkids. These aren’t the
Ill-fitted pieces of nostalgia. No, this is skin, twelve years old,
with a dust bowl haircut
Nothing approaching style, but with a hint of
Pizzazz in the economy of it. No,
This is dust like Nuclear fallout,
Or triangular trade runoff.
This is dust like war,
Dust like war paint,
This is the dust of the survivors.
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.
by Hastings Hensel
Each ring a year we cut into, open up,
hacking back every hour the decades.
We keep on, stroke after tiring stroke—
wedge, push, cuss, talk about chainsaws
that would show the tree’s history
as cleanly as a timeline in a textbook.
What makes us want to labor in camp—
an afternoon through blisters, bees, heat—
for a climax so brief? Half an hour in,
and what? We chop through to 1998:
Sosa homering, McGwire homering,
James Byrd dragged through Texas
by four white men in a pickup truck,
and the two of us, fifteen, learning how
to unclasp our girls’ padded bras
in empty dugouts on a Friday night.
It is concentration honed by the blade,
and these damp chunks of brown wood
that splay out like seconds with each chop.
Tell me, friend, what hard knot keeps it up?
Why does this hemlock not fall down
until your last tragic swing of the axe
and the quick, loud crash of a thing
the same dead age as our grandfathers?
Tell me again what we are left with
but a stump, some kindling, the half-life
of a life? We are left with our voices
drifting like ash by the necessary firelight.
Hastings Hensel lives in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, and his writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Shenandoah, Gray's Sporting Journal, The Hopkins Review,
by Erren Geraud Kelly
place i head back to
i'll never belong to again
My family accepts, if not
Love me for what i am
The streets are always the
Summer heat makes
And gumbo tastes
With beer on a hot
I look on the parade
I used to
I wonder about shannon
I refuse to
believe she didn't love me
Funny, i don't take the
I gave to my
I see my
I don't need him
The streets are
still the same
Erren Geraud Kelly is a poet based in New York City by way of Louisiana. A graduate of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, he has been writing for 21 years and been published in Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish and Poetry Magazine. Most recently, he was published in " In Our Own Words," a Generation X poetry anthology. "The themes in my writings vary," says Kelly, "but I have always had a soft spot for subjects and people who are not in the mainstream. I never limit myself to anything, I always try to keep an open mind."
by Gregory Luce
"I remember the way the mimosa tree buttered the shade
Outside the basement bedroom, soaked in its yellow bristles."
- Charles Wright
I too remember mimosas
two of them in my grandparents’
yard the pink bottle-brush
blossoms helicoptering down
the almost-not-there scent
trailing and how I had to sweep
them off the driveway
or scrape them when
the rain glued them down
to the concrete
how hateful the labor
and how much would
I give to do it again
now as my grandfather
finishes mowing the lawn
after dinner and starts
the sprinklers and we go
inside for one last iced tea
cicadas burring the
Gregory Luce was born in Texas and still resides below the Mason-Dixon line in Washington, D.C., where he works as production specialist for the National Geographic Society. He is the author of two chapbooks, "Signs of Small Grace" and "Drinking Weather." His poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Innisfree Poetry Review, If, Northern Virginia Review, Juke Jar, Praxilla, Little Patuxent Review, Buffalo Creek Review and in the anthology, "Living in Storms." To find out more, visit his blog or follow him on Twitter @dctexpoet.
by N. A’Yara Stein
Life. Domain. Kingdom.
The embayment alongside the alluvial plains
Is where I was born and where I grew up.
It’s a trip to see some rare November cotton:
Commissioned to collect, record, and describe,
Identify by name each rigid principal of tribe.
We get out and stand around.
No one there knows me now.
Extinct, I’m just going through the motions.
I tell you a secret even I don’t know
Showing you the succession of great-greats
On tombstones that begin to begin in 1753.
Phylum. Class. Order.
Rank is relative, restrictive to schema.
By summer’s end the boys in these towns
Will molt, farmer’s tan and all, into men.
Without the built-in checks to help
You keep the many names straight,
That rudimentary or basic knowledge
Important to survival, you talk with no one.
Family. Genus. Species.
In the antebellum kitchen we cut onions.
Developed from a common ancestral form,
Monophyletic, some places we never reach.
We eat in silence. You say you love the food.
We are both crying tears we don’t mean.
Hybrid. Variety. Aberration.
Between me and you, a distinction is to be made;
I've crunched all the numbers, culled the statistics.
A tiny mass of Latin rattles in my brain;
Words scribble like wasps on the water’s surface.
Somewhere between this moment and forever,
Somewhere between the two extremes,
There is some kind of common