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A Southern Way of Talking About Love

From: New England Review
Volume 33, Number 4, 2013
pp. 178-179 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0018

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A Southern Way of Talking About Love

I’ve been trying to get it down—
what I mean when I think about Southern Melancholy.
You can see it in our old story charts
and in the radio short about Clint,
a barefoot boy who tried to buy his way outta Appalachia
by gathering bloodroot and selling it a buck a pound.

Here is the Cumberland River.
And here is a strain of the heartsickness
bubbling through it and so through my childhood.

One blackberry winter I went behind the apartment
and down the ravine in flip-flops
(a Blue Ash sapling saved my life . . .)
just to touch what it was that flooded
and killed twenty last year.
What, once, when I was seven,
as if to confirm the existence of a petty personal god,
claimed the neighbors’ porch set,
which I had envied.

A certain strain in country songs.
I think it was in a harmonica I first learned
that love is not like how Cody’s grandfather,
a brewery bottler who went to dig for gold in Carolina,
came back against all odds with a band
for his bride and gold futures in baby’s name.
Gone three years,
he found every family member he’d left still alive,
and not a single brother in jail.

Cody and I grew up thinking ghosts stood guard.
Legends made account of every whistle in the dark.

What could have been in those hills
that made the Scots-Irish accents drawl out and twang?
We didn’t know many love stories,
but we learned two names for every tree:
Alaqua—sweet gum.

We touched the same sad stones:
The Baptist church. The other churches. That one Pentecost.
The tornadoes. Several of them. The last few days of any year.
Fleeing to New York. To the Berkshires. Coming back.
The call of the night collector. The specter of the Bell Witch.

No, love is more like flying to Pensacola years later
to see that old lover again,
getting drunk in the airport bar just to cheapen it.
He’d put me to bed like a child in his son’s room.
We’ll talk tomorrow. Sleep it off.

Mary-Alice Daniel  

Mary-Alice Daniel was born in Nigeria and raised in England. She is currently an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Michigan.

Copyright © 2013 Middlebury College Publications
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Mary-Alice Daniel. "A Southern Way of Talking About Love." New England Review 33.4 (2013): 178-179. Project MUSE. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Daniel, M.(2013). A Southern Way of Talking About Love. New England Review 33(4), 178-179. Middlebury College. Retrieved April 15, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Mary-Alice Daniel. "A Southern Way of Talking About Love." New England Review 33, no. 4 (2013): 178-179. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed April 15, 2013).
T1 - A Southern Way of Talking About Love
A1 - Mary-Alice Daniel
JF - New England Review
VL - 33
IS - 4
SP - 178
EP - 179
PY - 2013
PB - Middlebury College
SN - 2161-9131
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/new_england_review/v033/33.4.daniel.html
N1 - Volume 33, Number 4, 2013
ER -


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