By: Diane Fortenberry
About The Poem
For a friend found, then lost. Covid wasn’t the only killer of the pandemic.
I heard the wind singing between ancient English hedges
deep voiced, like breath across the lip of an empty glass Coke bottle
that earned you ten cents, dragged in your wagon from ditch to dime store.
You lived for the music, and you were good at improvising.
Thee and me: Southern ladies and gentlemen.
Hybrids, washed up on shores that however familiar will always be strange.
Iron camelias, steel magnolias, grown from the same alluvial soil. We got each other.
Nostalgia trips only work with a travelling companion.
You scraped dried oil paints off Daddy’s palette:
Dry Bones, Gulfport, Shrimpboats, Fifth Street: Columbus.
Smells of turpentine, varnish and jasmine on humid Mississippi nights.
There comes a time in every painting when you want to put your foot through it.
I spent Sundays in a dark department store,
trying on shoes and playing hide-and-seek among the coats,
proud of my privileged, private access, while Mama worked in the back.
We both learned early how to be poor and live rich.
We escaped the schoolroom separately: scrappy pine hills
receding in the rear-view mirror, attitudes too familiar to debate, the place
we couldn’t admit to loving. All the things we grew out of and learned better than.
Not what you planned for your sixtieth year on the planet.
Your aunt Gypsy, my aunt Zellie, big grandmother
and baby grandmother, okra and gumbo and Coke floats
with ice cream. Who wants to be richest corpse in the cemetery?
Illness is something to live with, not die from.
Cabbage whites haunt the shadows.
Your fried green tomatoes and my cheating novel were stellar features
of a locked-down summer, squishing eggs and caterpillars to vent frustration.
Chemo drains the muscles of magnesium, potassium.
Serendipity barely a year old, Ole Miss missed us.
Every story has a beginning, though that’s seldom where it starts.
Hoping this isn’t the end, just a break. Wake up tomorrow, ready to fight.
From my heart to yours, like the moon, I send news. Can you hear?Return To Map
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