Greenville, South Carolina, January 20, 2009
by Gilbert Allen
Maybe a seven-minute ride. Turns out
a lot of us white guys are here today,
pickups mostly, stuck with American flags
like Band-Aids over bumpers, back windows,
in honor of the history behind us.
Hauling two months of litter and beer bottles
from my blue luxury sedan, I must
appear to be a lost investment banker
hiding the bender he’s still getting over.
The guy beneath the HERITAGE NOT HATE
cap smiles. “Looks like you had yourself a time.”
He smells like he’s biodegradable.
I toss Buds into the dumpster, one by one,
so he’ll gimp off before my box is empty.
It works. It’s only me, as I repop
my trunk, and drag bag to the garbage bays
to fortify the artificial hill.
Mission Accomplished. Although I’ll be back,
sooner or later, with another load
of crap my cat and I want to be rid of,
filling what cavities our land still holds.
Gilbert Allen lives in Travelers Rest, SC, from where he frequently proceeds south (and north) on I-85. He’s the author of five collections of poems, including Driving to Distraction (Orchises, 2003), which was featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. Since 1977 he’s taught at Furman University, where he’s currently the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature.blog
by Valerie Smith
The Blues down south would cut you
like a paper mill and let your rotten stink
blow all the way north on a hot summer breeze.
That’s how she left, you know.
She was the second oldest of thirteen,
stocky as a sawed-off shotgun, red hair,
freckles and plump green eyes that traced
an un-retraceable line.
When I met her, she was Sunday dressed
in a full-length cashmere coat and matching
camel-colored hat. The wide brim tilted over
her right eye leaned into each heavy stride.
Legend has it, she snatched a black snake
out an oak tree in mid conversation and
ripped his head off in the street. She gripped
my hand and pulled a knife one night –
we stayed too late at Menlo Park Mall
and had to walk out the service exit.
I was just tall enough to see the blade
flash in the corner of my eye.
Her anointed hands could rub a rash clean
and make me believe the Blues
were always one bitter snuff can away
from spittin’ out the truth.
Valerie Smith delights in writing poetry and creative nonfiction. She is currently studying Creative Writing in the Master of Arts in Professional Writing program at Kennesaw State University where she is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant of first-year composition. Most recently, she presented her poems at the 2016 Decatur Book Festival. Her poetry has also appeared in Exit 271: Your Georgia Writers Resource and BlazeVOX15.