by E.J. Lawrence
“You don’t sound Southern,” she says,
When I tell her where I’m from.
I don’t sound like crickets on a summer night?
Or like a screen door slamming
When I run outside to catch fireflies,
My fingers, sticky from homemade jam,
Clinging to the jar?
Like my parents talking in low whispers
On the porch swing, as I run after
The specks of light,
Leaping high to catch one,
Then slamming the lid down tight.
You can’t hear the honey in my voice --
The biscuits, the fried green tomatoes,
Or the black-eyed peas and hog-jowl?
I sound like watermelon, anyway --
Slices thick and sweet,
Cooling in July,
But sometimes full of seeds
My cousin and I spit, unladylike,
across the yard.
When I’m deep in thought,
Sometimes I mimic my father,
Who sounds like a cotton gin --
Whirr, sigh, click.
Do you hear my grandmother’s twang?
Like the tune of a banjo.
As she snaps a chicken’s neck
To fry him up for dinner.
I sound as Southern as the change
That jingled in my great-great-grandfather’s pocket
When he moved to Tennessee
With nothing but those coins
And the clothes on his back.
As Southern as a Baptist Choir
Out-singing the Methodists on Sunday morning.
As Southern as the pop of a Coke can.
Southern as Rocky Top.
The Mississippi River runs in my veins.
I know all about Elvis and Martin Luther King, Jr.
All about Shiloh and Alex Haley and
B.B. King and Fort Pillow and music --
Oh, all the music.
My sing-song is like country, blues, jazz
Wafting onto Beale Street
Mixing together, the discordant notes
Melting like my ice cream in August,
Splashing on the ground,
Infusing my blue suede shoes.
Lord, I jingle like a Southern Belle,
Though I come from a line
Of rolled-up sleeves and salty brows,
And not from gentry at all.
I know I sound like
East Coast book-learnin’.
Like SUVs and kids with shoes
Pattering down the concrete
Onto manicured lawns
Of the houses that all look the same.
It’s simpler that way.
That’s how we like it.
E.J. Lawrence was born in Memphis, TN and grew up in a small Southern town by the Mississippi River. An avid reader from an early age, she discovered a love of fantasy (and England) when her dad bought her a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Living in the country afforded many opportunities to explore fantastical worlds, and the woods behind her house became Terabithia, the corn field became the Great Eastern Sea, and her playhouse, a house in Hobbiton. These days she lives in Athens, GA, where she teaches English literature courses and is working on a fantasy novel, inspired by her love of Grail lore. Visit her at ejlawrence.com, or blogging about women in literature at cannotbecontained.com.
Belle Rêve Literary Journal is a southern literary experience. Our mission is to capture everything that makes the South and its residents unique through the best contemporary literature we can find. We publish new works weekly.
Passionately Ran, Compassionately Fed.