As in born in Florida, left Florida, came home
and left again. Came home to die. As in here I’ll lie.
As in daddy’s name’s a mystery
and six long-lost siblings. As in kindlings
of desire for some of them. As in big mouth woman, Deep South woman
and four glorious months of spring. As in flowering.
Redbuds, orange blossoms, camellias and gardenias,
fetterbush, and kettles of azaleas. As in petals
smooth as baby-skin, and color and scent possess me. As in confess me.
As in vultures on armadillo carcasses swooning, and harpooning
half a cigarette off a hot tar road. As in heat, as in sweet,
revolting decay. As in resurrection tent crowds, and dense clouds
piling up, about to let rain loose in spasms, as in orgasms
and moon flower bring me back to life, overnight.
As in walking by that ten-foot gator dozing in the sun. Don’t run.
And let that copperhead have the path. As in a cold bath
and scratching chigger bites ‘til their blisters weep. As in keep
the secrets alive. As in full moons above pines, our maternal lines
and ghosts who like moonshine. Both kinds.
As in lynching trees and hobblebush, chain fern and maidenbush.
Switch-cane, virgin’s-bower, slash pine and passion-flower.
As in detox and paradox. As in the truth smarts. Bless our hearts.
MICHELE SHARPE, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, adoptee, and former trial attorney. She’s written for The Washington Post, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, and Guernica. Recent poems can be found in Parentheses, Poet Lore, North American Review, Stirring, and Baltimore Review. A memoir, Walk Away, and a poetry collection, Back East, are both published under her previous name, Michele Leavitt. She lives in North Florida.