Going Down Home Timeline

May 2018 Third trip Down Home

July 2015 Second trip Down Home

October 2014 First trip Down Home

July 2013 to October 2014 Online research and interviews

July 2013 23andme results received

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Down Home," the poem

I hope that this poem, which is included in The Bright Field of Everything (Kore Press 2014), might resonate with those of you who ever had a parent who felt displaced.


He brought her 400 miles north, left her
in a little white house with a bay window
that stared blankly over a golf course.  Left
Monday, stayed away all week making sales.
Uprooted from women who knew what
she meant when she said I swan or pass me
a tea towel.  Exchanged for coffee shop friends,
rapid talkers she’d correct through her baby –
“say ah-gayne, like we say down home, honey,
not ah-ginnn,”  And I’d say ah-gayne and search
her face to understand how it was brighter,
better, righter in that rhapsodic somewhere else.

Oh how sweet evenings fell through the sour
smell of the pulp mill, how recklessly they ate
the melons’ hearts and threw the rest to hogs,
how deep the smoldering peat, woody earth
burning back in the Dismal Swamp, Lake Phelps
steaming at sunrise.  The most gorgeous mornings,
sharpest rooster, gentlest mule.  And they’d had
the best pecans, sweetest spoon bread, saltiest
Smithfield ham.  How perfect the corn pudding,
bubbling in a glass casserole, how crisp
and translucent the watermelon rind pickles. 
Nothing better than a breakfast of ham biscuits
and streaked gravy, her mother’s quince jelly,
warm bag of boiled peanuts in your pocket.

Down home, where they’d had fireworks and shot
guns into the sky at Christmas, piled magnolia leaves
on the mantle, made fruit cake and floating island
custard and sand tarts.  She’d been content there,
sleek bird dogs sleeping in the sand under the porch,
crop dusters droning in the distance, her mother
singing I come to the garden alone, making mayonnaise
cake, sweet tea and deviled eggs for company.  No
money, evening gowns sewn without a pattern, food
coloring dropped in a vase to tint Queen Anne’s Lace,
tough muscadineg grapes pressed into summer wine.

Lord, how I wish I could be down home, she’d say,
the two of us alone in the little house, looking out over
the golf course through a curtain of snow, cold in pastel
winter robes, our damp hair in pin curls, dark skies filled
with deepening winter, the frame farmhouse in her mind
receding another hundred miles, and another, the rutted

Mill Pond road freezing over in memory, slippery.

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