"As trees leaf out and the landscape thickens with green," Southern Cultures shares two poems from its "Mason–Dixon Lines" feature.
In the heat of summer, as trees leaf out and the landscape thickens with green, the boundaries between inside and outside seem to break down. The speakers of these two poems of summer examine the blurred lines between place, self, and memory. In Charles Wright’s poem “All Landscape Is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself,” a speaker sits down to write, exploring remembered landscapes. He carries the world within, summer blooming under his skin “the way a bee leaves its sting.”
The speaker in Tammy L. Brown’s poem “Backwater Graffiti” interacts with her setting differently, writing herself onto it, scratching L’s “on sandstone bark.” Brown writes, “i butterfly, i honeysuckle,” turning the landscape into action that carries her speaker outward, in contrast to the inward, reflective energy of Wright’s poem.
These poems show us two different ways to live through a summer. Brown’s speaker ranges across the landscape, leaving her mark, while Wright’s speaker reminds us that “all forms of landscape are autobiographical,” concerned with the marks the landscape has left on him. One poem calls its readers to reflect on summers past, and the other urges readers to go out and live this one. —Abigail Lee
I came to my senses with a pencil in my hand
And a piece of paper in front of me.
To the years
Before the pencil, O, I was the resurrection.
Still, who knows where the soul goes,
Up or down,
after the light switch is turned off, who knows?
It’s late August, and prophets are calling their bears in.
The sacred is frightening to the astral body,
As is its absence.
We have to choose which fear is our consolation.
Everything comes ex alto,
We’d like to believe, the origin and the end, or
Non-origin and the non-end,
each distant and inaccessible.
Over the Blue Ridge, the whisperer starts to whisper in tongues.
Remembered landscapes are left in me
The way a bee leaves its sting,
Non-mystical, insoluble in blood, they act as an opposite
To the absolute, whose words are a solitude, and set to music.
All forms of landscape are autobiographical.
what’s my name? “L” sometimes lula sometimes belle
some times lulabelle i scratch L’s on sandstone bark
black bottom of syrup boiled vats in lost love holiness
l o n e some
i crack twig-rich puddles like sunburnt bones
tread mud-covered leaves skip pebbles over icy silver i build
L’s out of licorice root and lilac
i steal lace to look like a lady
sometimes i’m holy
sometimes i’m wholey sinning
i call on the lord i laugh through lashings i be the lord i
like to sing:
i butterfly i honeysuckle i eel— scaleless
slither in liquid lightning i cane liquor— memory still licked from
the rim i am i am the “L” carved on my left calf by my Ma to recall me.