An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Ellipsis

    White-blossoming trees
    In front of the house

    In Sparta, Georgia,
    Where they together lived:

    Free woman of color
    (black, white, Cherokee),

    white male slaver,
    and their children

    who slept with the mother
    in a mouse room connected

    to his rooms through secret doors.
    He gave his daughters diamonds

    Which they wore set in rings
    On their toes, and hid in their hair.

    Distant white relatives
    fought for the railroad stock

    when he died, and they won.
    They also got the house.

    You can smell the funk
    Of the haints in the walls:

    Mildew, semen, camphor,
    Oft-handled bills, coin metal,

    Cornbread breath that whispers
    and swallows and breathes.

    One day, as in the best
    bodice-rippers, the house

    burned down to the ground,
    burnt down by the distant white cousin

    who no doubt heard the ghosts
    humming and fussing, rattling,

    ratcheting, singing. Burn!
    she screamed. So it did.

    The fussing quieted. In its place,
    Wind in the willows, a whiff of

    something sweet, something sour,
    something always in its place.

     

    Published in American Sublime (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2005).

    Published: 10 December 2009
    © 2009 Elizabeth Alexander and Southern Spaces