The End of Southern History

Rebecca Black Click to

In 2011, Rebecca Black was a Fulbright fellow at the Seamus Heanry Center for Poetry in Northern Ireland. Her first book, Cottonlandia (UMass Press, 2004) won a Juniper Prize. A former Stegner and NEA fellow, she is an assistant professor at UNC Greensboro; she divides her time between San Francisco and North Carolina. She is at work on a second manuscript, “Presidio.”

And I return to the bear, claw marks
and scratches on the tree, was it oak or pine,

where the tinker chained his pet
while he went from house to house

hawking knifes and patching pans.
A story told to my father by his grandmother

as they planted seeds in a small bucket,
in forty years a fruit tree big enough

to fill a barrel, the story of the bear
growing in my mind.

There was a whorehouse
turned hotel that burned down.

The willowy son of the town madame
taught me how to waltz there.

The bear long gone, its manacles
melted down

for horseshoes.  You’re right,
I write about white people

as if I wasn’t one of them.
And the orange tree my father planted,

the stories he was told that I was told
to take down—why should anyone care?