A Poem that’s Not a Song or Set in the South

by Erica Dawson

Maryland, my Maryland, a border line,
“Free State,” disordered North/South, mountain pine
Cones west, bald cypress at the Bay, with brine

Along the coast and snow in Hagerstown,
White Oak, blue crab, orange and black, and down
The Ocean, hon, that January brown—

Do we even have a song?  A soothing sound
Of the south? I want the taste, touch, wet mouth round
About the vowels in every guitar drowned-

Out syllable.  My cousins have a twang.
I have a Mid-Atlantic pitch.  Notes hang
Near a middle C.  I say, I’ll do my thang?

That just won’t work.  O, say, but can I see,
Say, quirks (“lacks natural lakes”), state oddity,
(One part’s a mile wide) and sights (D.C.,

Where Lincoln’s waiting)?  In another place,
At the Potomac, dancing on my face,
A zephyr, boa-like, but commonplace

As my perfume, nuzzles against my chin.
Our Maryland version of a Chinook comes in,
Descending off the Rockies’ next-of-kin

In Appalachia.  Sing to me now; and, wrap
Up all my naked skin.  I want to nap
In its nook, wear its dress, and scotch its stocking cap,

Then follow it along to Arlington,
Another other place.  There, I’d lie in sin
On soldiers marked unknown.  The air is thin

And thick as if it offers up a cure,
A viscous antidote and I am sure
Of this “America in Miniature,”

And anecdotes so much I know the pinned
And bowing Black-eyed Susans almost grinned,
Black-faced, enough to keep my peeled eyes skinned.

 

 

Poem reprinted from The Small Blades Hurt,
First appeared in Harvard Review, Issue 35: Fall/Winter, 2009.

 

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