On the left, the Atchafalaya, that black,
that burnt inside, silent as a pot. Down there,
my lips equal silt and common bliss.
I carry my grave folded in an envelope,
a solitary cardboard wanting, a box and shards.
Down there, I have the right to secrets,
to gossip and lowdown. The woman beside me
has troubles that would drive me blind,
has a no-rhythm life, accidental blood. Down there
I observe the bendable rules that stand in for bone.
My skin is drawl, my eyes taste the two-syllable word.
Below Missouri, I have a chicory bias. Darlin’,
may I submit as our national anthem, Jolie Blonde?
Just like the Meters and Buckwheat Zydeco, I, too,
can adjust my heartbeat, despite the length of my step.
Despite the city’s broken heart, I am the snake half of the gator.
Despite the facts of jazz, I am as desperate as a bad last line.
The answer to the chicken is the egg of night,
numb, percale white. I think of salvation every time
the dog shakes his ears. Nothing much changes.
I learn acoustics from Professor Longhair, religion
from the Mardi Gras Gods. I study meteorology
in February’s saxophone wind. I suck sugarcane,
imagining it's Easter candy, Night Train,
etouffé. Touché . The key
to certain muddy silence is under my tongue.
Where your world gapes open, I shiver in.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in East Texas. Most recently she has appeared on the web in Carnelian, Pedestal, 2River View, Gumball Poetry and Can We Have Our Ball Back #12, and in print in Diner and The Monserrat Review. Her book, Reading Berryman to the Dog, was published by Jacaranda Press in 2000.
Of this poem, she writes: "I have certain friends who seem not to understand the South much. For some little while I have been trying to explain. This is my last word on the subject."