POETRY in the BREW
Please join us on the Second Saturday of the Month
PORTLAND BREW EAST
1921 Eastland Avenue
Nashville, TN 37206
SIGN-UP STARTS 5:30
READING STARTS 6:30
POETRY in the BREW wants to thank all those who come out on the second Saturday.
Please join us this coming month!
POETRY in the BREW July, 2012 feature is a dear friend to the Nashville Poetry Community.
We are proud to announce JAMES C. FLOYD, THE JEFFERSON STREET POET
JULY 14, 2012
James C. Floyd is a poet, a screenwriter and storyteller, a founding member of TN Screenwriters, member of Academy American Poets, retired alcohol and drug associate councilor, and he taught creative writing at Nashville ST Community College.
SPECIAL GUEST HOST for Poetry in the Brew for July 14, 2012
Storytelling has always been a natural part of my red dirt Alabama self. In grade school teachers asked me to write about my family only they thought the stuff I read to the class was made up. Truth was my childhood was damn near insufferable. We were an alcohol, drug, food, and God addicted bunch. My one preoccupation as a kid was to rewrite my entire life so it resembled something pretty. In the end the things that haunted me most kept surfacing. So, the ugly came out in spite of my best efforts.
For several years my work as a mitigation specialist in death penalty cases disciplined me to dig deep and wide. The result would be a social history where the client would respond, “You know more about my family than I do.” And it’d be true. These peoples’ lives were as haunted as my own. But they found healing in coming to know their story. Eventually, so did I.
My mentors have been weavers of tales like Minton Sparks, Flannery O’Connor, Edgar Lee Masters, James C. Floyd, Lucinda Williams, Blind Mississippi Morris, a whole family of prevaricators (especially including my cousin, Teresa), Kurdish dengbêjs, Afghan poets, and liars in AA.
HERE IS ONE OF SUSAN’S POEMS:
My four year old knuckles
are white against the edge of the pew.
Sodom and Gomorrah are burning.
The people cry out under the rain of fire and brimstone.
Lot’s wife is in a stew.
She hears familiar voices in distress
and weighs giving a backward glance.
Lot walks down the hill
from the small towns that are no longer
hidden from an angry deity.
Their worship of other gods
and the itches they dared to scratch
brought down a righteous wrath.
Lot’s wife can bear it no more
and so she turns.
In an instant, crystalline feet slow her to a halt;
her legs, her arms, her sodium chloride core
break her stride.
My mother appears quite calm, bored even.
The pulpit, mere feet away,
vibrates as my daddy’s voice crescendos
to emphasize how dire the matter has become.
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah
wilt under harsh, ancient rules
written in King James’ tongue.
A rule book the size of a Sears and Roebuck catalogue
condemns their lust.
Their carnal fire turns white hot
and vaporizes them all.
And at the edge of the towns
stands a lone, forever stilled figure;
a symbol of mankind’s collective disobedience.
In Sunday School
There is a table covered with wax paper
Shakers of salt in a line.
“Today our story is about Lot’s wife
and what becomes of people
who disobey our heavenly Father,”
my teachers say.
They want us to remember
The fate of the woman who looked back
out of curiosity, perhaps in longing,
over neighbors whose end came so quickly.
What on earth did they do, really?
The salt gets poured into vials
and a solution seals them so they harden quickly.
I carry Lot’s wife out of the classroom in my pocket.
I cannot help the feeling of utter terror that’s come over me.
How far am I from turning into a pillar of salt?
An Alabama rain begins to fall.
Big drops the size of marbles
Splatter against everything.
My pocket soaks up the water.
By the time I reach my mother
Lot’s wife is a wet, crumbly mess.
Checking my pocket my mother’s forehead wrinkles.
“What is this in your pocket?”
“Lots’s wife,” and my tears fall
with the rain.
My mother takes no notice of my distress.
She pulls me to a wastebasket
where my pocket is turned inside out
and hand brushed.
I watch Lot’s wife disappear, sprinkled
over paper towels and chewing gum.
That night I have a recurring dream.
I’m in the very hell my daddy described
that is the place of eternal punishment
for people who will not follow God’s rules.
My daddy spoke of jots, tittles, and iotas.
My four year old self cannot grasp
The nature of those words,
But my sins have brought me here
to this white hot hell
where it is so dark
I can’t see my hand in front of my face.
Flames leap and people cry, but there is no conversation.
The people can only cry out for all eternity.
I call out for my mother
She comes to my room, wringing her hands,
for the umpteenth night in a row.
My heart races and I am covered in hives.
Dr. Kates arrives in the middle of the night
His satchel brings relief.
An injection calms my anxious self
and the hives retreat one more time.
“She is a sensitive child,” I hear him tell my mother.
Dr. Kates packs his magic satchel.
He seems unbothered by the hour of the night;
his potions, pills, and soft ways
dressed in humility.
Meanwhile my mother rocks me to sleep
and an angry God marks time.
Susan McBride – March 2011