Funny girl writes a sad-ass poem. I’ve got some nerve. Thanks to a dear friend who shared some of her inspired writing with me last weekend, I remembered this poem that I wrote while living in New Jersey, more than ten years ago. I wanted to share it here both for a change of pace and as an act of fearlessness. Sharing funny stories is easy. They are veiled. This is written by a much more vulnerable character.
When I wrote this, my dad was still alive.
Home was barefoot under the canopy of cypress,
Sucking on watermelon rinds, eating oranges off the tree.
His mama tucked biscuits in his pocket,
He picked sand briars out from between his toes.
He went to the grove to help the pickers,
And slept in the shed on nights when the pipes might freeze.
How could he survive after they moved him
To palm-lined streets on the wings of his father,
Abandoning one Florida wilderness for another?
He stole lobsters out of traps in Biscayne Bay.
He walked barefoot into Woolworth’s
And climbed spindly palms to escape the obstruction of a stucco view.
He worked at a gas station and dated a rich girl,
He watched his Florida disappear,
He did landscape work for a golf course community.
He tried to teach me better.
Swim, sugar! Deep into the fresh, dark water of your home.
Let the tannins course through your veins.
Paddle up the river and keep an eye out for gators,
They only attack tourists and cowards.
You’re great granddaddy cooled his feet in this river.
Yankees won’t swim here, they are too scared, but not my girl,
You swam in Lake Walk-in-Water before you could walk.
You belong here in this real Florida.
But the concrete closed in around us, didn’t it Daddy?
No Staghorn Ferns and fish beds where I am now.
People escaping south in old age don’t know what they have destroyed.
They do not see the moss dragging a line in Charlie Creek
Or Cypress trees seated defiantly in the middle of black water currents.
I’ll remember though, just for you.
I will swing out strong on tattered ropes and dive into the darkest of water.