Sunday, September 25, 2005


I just want to say that I have really smart and articulate friends.

If you haven't already done so, you must read Ciona's poem "Try" at It has the flow of Randall Jerrell's "Next Day" ... it's really really good.

I am tempted now to brag, and tell you how well my friends write and/or speak. I would love for you all to hear Stephanie preach, or read Janet's "Monday Good-byes." And Laurie has an idea right now that is so good it's hard not to steal it and write something just like it. I could go on and on ... but I won't. Instead, inspired by Ciona, I'm going to post a poem. Don't worry; I didn't write it. Anytime I try to write a poem, it sounds like a really bad greeting card. This one is written by my mom. It is about leaving public school when integration began in Alabama. I like the irony, how much the birth of something sounds like a funeral, and how the natural images reflect the characters and the moment in history ... the hardness of the ground, the sunset, the heat, and a child being stuck in a moment she doesn't understand. It's one of my favorites.

Groundbreaking, June 1967

We drove to the clearing by the edge of the woods.
In the heat sweat ran down the back of Daddy's neck,
and my bare legs stuck to the seat of the car.
Daddy chewed his cigar, spat out the window.
Each time he leaned I moved closer to my sister.
The ground was hard by the cornfield, no rain since May.
Pegs were posted like flags, a yellow ribbon tying them.
Daddy said there' be only four rooms at first,
Might be a year 'fore other folks saw things our way.
Two men in suits stood with shovels.
A young boy carried the state flag as we sang "America."
I thought about sixth grade at the big school,
how I would've played piano for assembly.
But Daddy says no child'a his can yes yessir to no nigger.
The tall man prayed and blessed the grounds.
We ate cake on a covered table by the cornfield
and gathered sting nettles and bitterweed.
We played exploring in the woods until time to go.
By then the tall woods by the field
formed a dark sun set of their own,
near the clearing by the edge of the woods.

(PS. My mom asked me to mention that the poem is copyrighted. Fair enough. Susan Shehane, Coosa River Books, 2005)


Madame Rubies said...

I love your mom's writing.

Ciona said...

Lovely . . . then end to your mother's poem is "fantabulous!" I've been wanting to read some of her work. Thanks for sharing . . .

And for the shout-out! How fun!

Liz said...

I like reading your mom's stuff, and that poem was definately very powerful. But I miss reading your stuff....

Valerie said...

I'm glad Stephanie has a blog.