Soliloquy against a Kudzu Backdrop
Audience of none, superstition dictates
that I peek through the kudzu curtain
like a starlet before making an entrance
and speaking yet again on the theme
of ignorance observed in waking life.
I would like to believe these are actors I see—
rednecks so loud in their stupidity
that rather than being frightened by their antics
I find myself waiting for the punch line.
If only “heritage, not hate” weren’t a thing.
A wasp stumbled into the muddy waters
of my coffee reminding me that words can sting
and later dry their wings in my hair,
and either because I am stupid or bold, I resumed
my work of measuring shadows and waiting
for wild foxes to travel in my line of sight.
Today, everyone laughed when I delighted
as a swallow tail kite dove for nestlings,
just like I knew they would. I thought we were friends,
but I could walk away tomorrow. How can we be
so different when the same trees
rustle in all of our dreams? Something wild
stirs in me. Something wild calls my name,
and vanishes, muffled beneath a beast
of green. When I look up nothing’s left
but the ghost of wind lurching through kudzu leaves,
the movement of a horse minus the horse itself.
The Reluctant Saint
So what if wolves whimper when you speak.
Nobody wants to make a scene,
a poet’s strange prophecy of mud
seeping from her padlocked lips.
Nobody wants to be flayed, or to choke
on hymns with one hand in the fire,
to feed the dagger fourteen times, and live.
It’s a curse, God’s words in your ear pointing out
your brethren—a bus stop prophet with a bird
on his shoulder—people you’d otherwise ignore.
But it may be too late, if the ordinary sunset
drags with it a curtain of awe, if your sight
is layered with floaters that sink like bees
into golden blooms. You already know
what will come, that one day your glass coffin
will part a stream of devoted. The masses trickle by
until you are reduced to a smooth bone
that, no matter how you turn it
in the stained glass sunlight, resembles a face.
An army of girls will adopt your name,
and they will cry out from everywhere—
crawling to mountaintops, fasting, untangling
their hair, giving thanks for shattered glass
that does not cut, but tinkles to the street
like feathers from an unseen bird. They’ll pour libations,
and what is there to say but yes to an offering
of blood and honey from the earth?
Round the Clock Blues
I got the can’t feel nothing
soak my feet in Lake Pontchartrain
white stockings in a red clay world
fingerprints in the mirror
river water up my nose
dust on lace curtains
gator on the front porch
peppermint home remedy
mind on fire
ring on every finger
write poems for nobody
turkey on a Ouija board platter
prayer stuck in my throat
St. Francis statue for a baby
red velvet road kill
no names for all the faces
paint don’t hide the waterline
swamp water baptism
sweet talk the sheriff
sour milk in my coffee
two clocks on the wall behind me blues
Alison Pelegrin is author of four poetry collections, most recently Waterlines (LSU Press 2016). She is the recipient of creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and her poems appear in recent issues of The Southern Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Tinderbox.