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Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 6.1 (2005) 56-57

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Dirty South Moon1

brothers . . .
she is
rounder than the moon
and far more faithful.
Lucille Clifton

the moon is here    the moon
don't believe the sun arriving for its own sake
thrall of nostalgia beating

out out spot of moon  don't believe the sun
or the tattoo of beauty  childhood tableau
thrall of nostalgia beating  white dress on a clothesline

beauty's tattoo  childhood tableau  meaning of dirt
clapboard church  white dress on a clothesline
swaying in obligatory side to side

don't believe in dirt   clapboard church  believe a southern moon
believe in this  swaying from side to side
necklace of woman's body

southern moon toomer's tune truth of billie's tree
believe the necklace of a woman's body  that heavens
should be raining still

that billie's tree sings truth  that a phrase is draped
at the wood's throat   heavens should be raining still
knife opening her from side to side [End Page 56]

this phrase draped at the wood's throat  falling child starts
stops  crying  knife unlocking its mother
no staring at her face  her name is mary

child falling out who stops crying   stomped upon
by men swelled pale with their lies  no blink of its eyes
no staring at its mother's face  no bewilderment at first light who

child  nothing holy said no prayers over the dead tree
no new creatures flying   bewildered at first light  who
only old blues

nothing holy  you can't hear nobody pray  brother
your sister hung here  hangs  sister you know old blues
night till morning   don't you refuse her  don't commit an old sin

when that is your sister hanging there  she is
twisting   dying for ham's supposed sin
think of songs on your dancing tongue

have you not begged God  a familiar  have you not sent
words dancing  sung songs spontaneous  then forgot

that sister's hands begging fire  not for your own salvation
not for songs spontaneous  used  look
the moon  look  look here

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers's latest book is Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan, 2003). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner. A native Southerner, she now lives on the prairie, where she is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.


1. Mary Turner of Brooks County, Georgia, was eight months pregnant when she was lynched by a white mob in 1918. Her husband, Hayes, had been lynched by the same mob the previous day.



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