25 June 2007

Going Home?

Going Home?

North on 85 from Georgia
      where Flannery O’Connor’s mother is still alive
      and a blank space in the family plot
      patiently waits for her
I leave the city and head north into the deeper south
I sweep through Greenville
      and roam on as night falls
      the windshield littered in small winged deaths
I leave the wipers off
      let the bugs rest in peace

I stop in North Carolina for my mother
      relocated to the pace from her childhood
Where men meet every night at the county airport
      to gossip and chew ‘bacca
      argue the success of the Burpee or Rocky Ford
      cantaloupes and lament they still
      can’t beat a Turberville melon

My mother’s husband was born here
The locals call him R.L.
      but she forgets and calls him Bob
      and then hastily corrects herself
Bob’s best friend is Snoot
      whose father worked for Bob’s
But when he calls on the phone
      he is William

My mother and I drive on to Poquoson
      to Little Florida Avenue to visit another generation
Their speech is that of the old and toothless
      even though they have them
Instantly
      unconsciously
      my speech alters
      its cadence slows
      enunciation softens
      reversing the years’ effects since moving
      to Northern Virginia in the middle of fifth grade
      when I purged my drawl
      to quell teasing's talons
I fool no one
      least of all myself
      that I belong here

We drive downtown before leaving and find
      the waterfront altered from my mother’s memory
Not remembering it myself
      I agree with her
      and am struck by the memory of riding in the car with her
      accusing her of running red lights when she made left-hand turns

We are here to ride the carousel from the
      Buckroe Beach Amusement Park
Its original home a ghost long demolished
      replaced by condominiums
      blocking the view to the water
We used to walk to the park
      from my father’s mother’s house on Second Avenue
      steps from the beach
My feet prickle and cramp from the echoes
      of outdoor twilight showers to banish the sand
      gumball landmines unavoidable in the mad dash
      to warm towels from the dryer on the back porch

At the ride’s entrance I pay my fifty cents
The middle-aged woman reminisces with me as she
      hands me my ticket and I select my horse with care
The carousel spins and boisterously croons
      the stallions prance
I cannot remember this from before
      I should
Leaving
      holding my mother's hand
      I keep turning back
      not wanting to go
      or to let go
This feeling
      I remember

We say goodbye to our family
Elder cousins Charlotte
      Freeman and Roma
      Papa and Aunt Jeanette
We stand reluctantly to leave
      their warm
      soft embraces lingering
      beckoning us back and not so long between visits

I return my mother and wend myself back
      to Atlanta and then to school in Tallahassee
I cannot call these places home
      anymore than where I was born

Home is a place I’ve yet to discover


Written in December 1991 with minor updates today.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loverly. And, Bob was sexy; he
met all the Sweet Potato Queen's criteria.

Carolina Mom

CheekierMeSly said...

His keeperness was never in doubt, CarolinaMom!

Kristin said...

" . . . outdoor twilight showers to banish the sand
gumball landmines unavoidable in the mad dash
to warm towels from the dryer on the back porch . . . "

These lines found me. Descriptions so vivid that they trace a time and place that I can feel and smell--and I was never there : )

This is beautiful.

CheekierMeSly said...

Thank you, Kristin. Vividness is indeed something I seek in life. Vividness sneaking its way into the words that pop out of my pointy head? Bonus!

whitenoise said...

Classic Cheek. :-)

This skill with words is something that I've admired for some time.

CheekierMeSly said...

"Classic" and my moniker, when combined, usually have a negative connotation. Spanks for the positivity, whitenoise.