Carla Martin-Wood - "Gardening in Dixie," "Quilt Story," and "Marmee."

Gardening in Dixie
in loving memory of Anne Carroll George

I swear, sometimes I wonder
if I write poems like this
because I don't have
a good place
to grow tomatoes
the way a normal
southern woman

Southern soil is
rich with poems.
They fertilize our vegetables
and eventually permeate
the very marrow
of women southern-bred.
In the sanctuaries of
our big-hair beauty parlors,
we blurt out casual metaphors
spit out similes
like cobras
alliterate naturally when
some sorry son-of-a-gun
stomps a sister's heart.

I suppose
a southern lady
should be content with
this unconscious legacy of
spoken poems
but lately
I find myself
writing them down

Maybe next year, I'll grow okra.



Quilt Story

Winter afternoons

when I was small
the women of my family
would set up the quilting frame

They'd spread a pallet
near the fire
I'd lie there warm
and pretend to nap
as I watched their hands
create a comforting world
of scraps and cotton batting

And the oils of their hands
blessed their work
and it was good

A basket of scraps waited piecing
and each told its story

a patch from Great Granny's wedding dress
a bit of a dress Mother wore in a school play
satin from Aunt Ellie's baby gown
velvet from the shawl that draped Mama-Teen's shoulders
when she was young and danced
(before she knew it was a sin)

Morning Star
Double Wedding Ring
Virginia Reel

these quilts
were faithful companions
of my childhood

They spread over chair backs
to make a playhouse
or folded softly under the oak
as I read away my summers

Stained with the tears of
high school catastrophes
they covered a thousand
journaled secrets
and even bore my
furtive first time lovemaking
with the paperboy
who smelled of Clearasil
and English Leather

through circumstance
and time
now I find myself
lonely for them
and dream of sunny days

Mama-Teen pulls a quilt
fresh from the clothesline
spreads it on the ground
inviting me
and lulled to sleep
beneath the spreading oak
I drift
on echoes of quilt stories
breathe once more
the scent of
sun & breeze & grass
all captured in that quilt



As the dream fades
I dimly feel their hands
all those strong women
their histories
stitched and bound
in that quilt
Great Granny

Aunt Ellie
holding me
holding me
sadly outstretched
I wake
into the real world
beneath a poor substitute
fabric squares
never worn
stitched by machine
washed by machine
dried by machine

and nothing here
holds me.



Marmee, sunny side of 65, takes her coffee black
and her bourbon with a little branch,
pokes her head in my office to relate
how she was on her way to keep
her "regular 8AM Sunday morning appointment
with the Almighty
when an 8-footer blocked the path of her pickup."

Marmee stopped the truck, pulled out her .38,
"blew his head off before he could rattle,"
dragged the carcass to the side of the road
and was on her way without so much as soiling her Sunday-best.
On the way back, she hoisted him onto the pickup:
"Prettiest hide I ever saw - must've just shed - he was that shiny!
Skint him before sundown - what a handbag he's a-gonna make!"

Asked me if I liked opera. When I replied "Turandot", said:
"Why, that's just like an orgasm set to music, child."
Then, told me how a foal came breach last week, and
she had to have help to turn him.
How that gets harder every year.

She chattered on about the skirt she wore,
how she prefers to emphasize the delicate pinks in the print.
She said she'd put up some okra and tomatoes just for me
And rose petal jam for my daughter.

Then, the conversation turned more serious.
She confided that she is leaving us.
She's taking the summer to teach self-defense to women for the NRA.
"Somebody has to teach these young-uns how to use their guns more safely."

Marmee, slayer of snakes that block the path to Divinity
bringer of new life to the stables
Marmee, human-very-being,
I will miss you.


Carla Martin-Wood's chapbook, Garden of Regret, will be released from Pudding House Publications sometime this year. She has current or forthcoming work appearing online in IBPC: New Voices, ken*againjoyful!, Cherry Blossom Review, and Goblin Fruit, as well as in the print journals, Mississippi Crow and Cherry Blossom Review. She has published in print journals since 1978, including Rosebud, State Street Review, Aura, Astarte, Elk River Review, The Lyric, and many others. With a 13-year background in theatre, she has performed her poetry from Greenwich Village to The University of the South at Sewanee. She created and maintains Smoky Joe's Café, an online open mic, on her website, The Well-Read Head:

Posted on December 7, 2013 .