Saturday, February 14, 2015

Learning to drive

This horse, Charlie, was a gift to my widowed daughter. He came with harness 
and a year's supply of hay. His owner was moving and looked out for a good home.
My daughter learned to drive him and used him to prepare and harrow her garden/
Later, my grandsons, rode him. He lived to a ripe old age. Tonight, 
looking for a picture, nothing pleased me. Then I found this, Circa 1993.

Wide Open, These Gates

Going down the road feeling good, I snap
my fingers. Hear, hear! At an auction, my father
bid sixty-five dollars for a fat Hampshire pig
just by rubbing his nose. When my grandfather
scattered his seed to the four corners, corn stood up
tall as his hat brim. My grandmother's sheets
flapped like bells on the line. Crabbed youth,
crab apple, crape myrtle, I mumble

as I shuffle downhill, my crabbed youth
behind me like gnats singing. I've come a long way
from what's been described as a mean and starved
corner of backwoods America. This has a ring 
to it. Rhythm, like my grandmother's hands
in the bread dough. Her food made the boards creak,
my grandfather, mellow. He had a wild temper
when he was a young man. Most folks talk too much,
he'd say, aiming slow spit at a dung beetle.
He never mumbled. sometimes he talked nonsense

to roosters and fierce setting hens. My nonsense coos
like a dove. Goodbye swallows cruising
the pigpen. Goodbye apple dumplings. Goodbye
little turkeys my grandmother fed with her fingers.
Big Belle was a nanny goat. Holler "Halloo"
after sundown and all the cows come home. Some words
are gates swinging wide open and I walk on through
one more summer that like this road's going
down easy. The gnats sing, and I'm going
to sing. One of these days I'll be gone.

Kathryn Stripling Byer

in The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat; 
poems by fifteen contemporary North Carolina Poets, 
University of North Carolina Press, 1994, page 81.

Interestingly, the poem and the picture are roughly contemporary. I love the way this poem is crammed with specific and memorable detail. And the movement from things seen to things heard and back again is great!

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