In the movie Sweet Dreams Jessica Lange
does what Sissy Spacek does
in The Coal Miner’s Daughter, only worse,
she dies. Patsy Cline’s husband Charlie
dances alone, Loretta Lynne’s waits
patiently. It’s the origins of these people
magnify the tragedy and comedy
to equal history’s deep wide screen,
and it doesn’t hurt to know one,
like a son his father, to empathize
with the great heartbreak and void of the South.
All wastelands between islands of beauty
haunt the heart that hurts from so much torment.
My mother was an abandoned child
but loved by the man who reared her mother.
Men in white hoods and coats rode horses up
the road past the house. She asked who they were,
and Pap said someone was not taking care
of his family. What she saw close up
when the Ku Klux Klan rode through her childhood.
Her beauty stayed inside her. The man came
to father one who died before the one
lived to write this apology for being born.
I know the seed would never have taken
the ovum if brother Bobby had lived.
There would have been no need. Bobby
would have been all things I was not,
the diesel mechanic our father wanted,
the Baptist minister our mother dreamed.
I didn’t care, I went my own way,
no one would stop me before I ran out
of luck. Never did. The road was too long,
laid out so Kansas straight you went to sleep
if you forgot the narrow Southern roads
nobody drove who wasn’t drunk or wild
for a woman, opossums hanging by their tails
from the trees arching over the highway.
Neon letters announcing the night’s fare
in every sweat-hot city drew big crowds.
I went home. I saw things I never knew.
Everything true I had already dreamed.
(20 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander