The First Glaciers

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 9 No. 2, "Festival: Celebrating Southern Literature." Find more from that issue here.

When the first glaciers melted and

the flood washed away the seas, mother,

you were there with your Bible

reading your first Corinthians,

lips silently moving as you turned

the wafer thin pages.

Your eyes were clear holes of transparent water

where I swam, unknowing,

until the fire.

The Baptist preacher would scream from the pulpit,

pounding a fevered fist,

red-faced as the Indians in my schoolbook

dancing half-naked around a fire.

(Mama I wanna go home

eat roast beef and green peas

and watch tv)


Berkeley nights were foggy and cold

and I had a lover

who threw bricks at cop cars and

made love through the afternoon.

We never talked of marriage, or children.

There were certain taboos.

We walked midnight streets on psychedelics

measuring time by the fading of colors.

A friend with scars on his inner wrists

would cook dinner in the morning -

beans in an iron pot on a two-burner stove.

The curtains stuck to the steamy kitchen windows

and we peeled them away from the glass

to watch the sun rise.


But I called you, mother, from pay phones at proper hours

across two time zones to the Bible Belt

and never woke you, never caught you at dinner.

Mostly we were still:

me in a glass booth on Telegraph Avenue

one hand pressed against the free ear

to shut out traffic and friends

while you let the Sunday dishes soak.