TROUBLING ACCENTS


I'd think about what they tell children, about kissing
your elbow, and I tried to. I actually did. I was that scared…

                             -William Faulkner, from Sanctuary

 


Leave it to a Southerner to puncture the ordinary,
Transmuting violence and my hatred for it into something
Brutal and beautiful and vulgar like pie-head,
Saturnine boys knifing belt notches for lays,

 

To have some peckerwood suggest I leave,
Knowing the air is too humid to sustain
Cicadas and serried, clapboard houses
Along with my desperate need to question.

 

What few answers I found only led to more compunction,
Making a slattern, purple-mouthed woman
Seem almost justified for wanting to kiss her elbow
As she lay among the chaff, desperate to slip the yoke

 

Of Fate. I ran from that land to hide in the New South.
There, there are manners like moribund magnolias.
Effluvium still seeps from every flowery syllable I breathe.
I cannot dissemble whence I come.

 

Now, not quite an expatriate, I have found a place
Inside myself where I can be comfortably nostalgic,
My ears alert for yalls and nems and all those
Troubling accents of home.