Monday, June 1, 2009

Cathy Smith Bowers


I had a boyfriend once, after my mother
and brothers and sisters and I
fled my father’s house, who worked
at the Piggly Wiggly where he stocked
shelves on Fridays until midnight
then drove to my house to sneak me out,
take me down to the tracks by the cotton mill
where he lifted me and the quilt I’d brought
into an empty boxcar. All night
the wild thunder of looms. The roar of trains
passing on adjacent tracks hauling
their difficult cargo, cotton bales
or rolls of muslin on their way to the bleachery
to be whitened, patterned into stripes and checks,
into still-life gardens
of wisteria and rose. And when the whistle
signaled third shift free, he would lift me
down again onto the gravel and take me home.
If my mother ever knew she didn’t say, so glad
in her new freedom, so grateful for the bags
of damaged goods stolen from the stockroom
and left on our kitchen table. Slashed
bags of rice and beans he had bandaged
with masking tape, the labelless cans,
the cereals and detergents in varying
stages of destruction. Plenty
to get us through the week, and even some plums
and cherries, tender and delicious,
still whole inside the mutilated cans
and floating in their own sweet juice.


When my brother finally spoke its name,
the white cells of his bodyhaving relinquished
their ancientinstruments of warthe small bombs
silencedand the hand grenadesthe tanks slow
retreat into miragethe horses
and the bright swords
sheathed the sticks
the stones
finally downand the little lost
animal of the spirit
stepping its soft
hooves into the light,
I wantedto know that peace
walk into that quiet
to lie downin a life like that.

Anatomy Of A Southern Kiss

She said, Just put your stuff right there.
He said, Right whar?
Mimicking her
drawl. Tells now how it took so long,
that dreaded No,
(Oh, man's worst curse)
oozing from her
lovely mouth, he’d tasted each slow
sweet O, O, O
before she could
get the word out.


Maythen to the Anglo-Saxon.
Egypt’s minionoffered up to
sun. Little weed
of our childhood picked to appease
our mother’s ire
when father turned
to drink. Too soon
we learn, as field and cove and ditch
we tread, the more
it is trodden
the more it spreads.


So I’ve come to love the flower
whose name some jerk
shouted at my
brother as we
walked past. Beneath my dormant rose,
it alone bears
the weight of snow.
Thoughts no
less numerous than its many
names: Call me to
you. Hearts-ease. Kiss
me ere I rise.

-all poems previously published at Story South

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