a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
they laughed at me. When they saw the fur-lined winter coat,
they split a gut for a week. When they heard my Yankee accent,
they accused me of being a foreigner, and I was. I did not know
a black-eyed pea from succotash, and did not know cotton
could prick your finger. I did not know snipe hunting
was an initiation, and the men ducked when I swung around
with a loaded shotgun, my finger on the trigger. I learned
to never stand on a flat bottom boat. I had a bellyful of their insults:
What was the matter with you? Don’t you put chew inside your cheek?
Didn’t you know the south had won the dispute between the states?
I stayed ten years; ten years too long, driving by shanties
on cinderblocks, seeing sharecroppers tiling the land
with hand plows, breaking red Georgia clay into desperation.
When I fled crossing the frost line towards New York,
I realized a part of me still craved catfish, still drawled
the slow easy way like a man putting together words
in high heat, and still had clay stuck on my shoes.
I left behind magnolias, cypress trees
with their webs of moss, the loons breaking through
clouds, deer crossing on the unpaved roads,
and if I touched corn silk, pollen would stick
to my fingers, yellow as memory, dusting everywhere.
Martin Willitts Jr is the winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award, and the Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2015, Editor’s Choice. He has over 20 chapbooks, plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016). He is the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press).