My last post was simply to share a poem about peace that reminded me to seek solace in wild spaces when the darkness of the world encroaches. I hoped that reflecting a little light back out towards the darkness would help me and others. Perhaps it did. I have been trying to read, to meditate, to be with my family, and to take the tangible steps of donating to a food bank and joining a local grassroots group in the hope of contributing to solving social problems that I care deeply about.
But, yet, I have also lingered in the darkness a bit. I cannot stop myself from reading pieces of righteous outrage. Being outraged myself at violence and hatred and close-mindedness and insensitivity. As a child of The South who has always somewhat loathed the spaces and symbolism and culture and history and food of the rural southern Mississippi region, I feel a deep connection with this second poem as well. In its own way, it makes me feel better because it seems deeply true. When I read this poem, I know all the beauty and ugliness of every single line – the smells and tastes and vibrancy and decay that forms the place I once called home and always wanted to escape.
I hate your hills white with dogwood
or pink with redbud in spring
as if you invented hope, as if
in the middle of red clay,
and oak trees dead with fungus
something slight and beautiful
should make us smile.
I hate the way honeysuckle drapes
fences, blooms in the ditch
where everyone dumps garbage;
the evening air sweet with cedar
and fields of burley;
the way irises and buttercups
mark the old dimensions of a house
destroyed a hundred years ago;
how a span of Queen Anne’s lace
rocks the whole moon, and the sumac
runs dark against the hill.
I hate the drawl, the lazy voice
saying I’ve been away so long
I sound like I’m from nowhere;
the old hand gathering snowballs or peonies
or forking up an extra dish of greens,
bitter, just the way I like them.
~ Neal Bowers
Added: After posting this, I read a piece about the power of poetry that speaks exactly to how I’ve been feeling lately.