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South Carolina

BY KATHERINE FRAIN

Honorable Mention for the 2013 Adroit Prize for Poetry
Judge: Garth Greenwell

 

Your state bird can barely lift itself
from water, wings jerking, throat
a hollow chasm writhing
with scales. Accustomed to sea-salt
tarnished Adam’s apples, you are strained by

its awkward voice. A ruined clamor of bayonets
and cannons skewed on the edge
of walls that will not creaking tumble,
dowager debutantes with cypress knees
still hoping  to kneel down to glory.

Glory. You devour moonlight
from magnolia  blossoms jaundiced as
curdled headlines from 1865, the year
when all your hopes for glory faded.
Gray as the soldiers trudging home.

Glory. When ghosts laid infernos to hope’s
crooked edge. Glory, iced sweet tea
and morphine. Dixie songs. The hero’s cure.

Mass-produce your flags, the star-filled X
a cross that has collapsed.
Your corridor of shame stretches miles, wide
as the wraparound white porch
where you glare at sweet grass shivering
gospel hymns. Call the police

if someone tries to steal it, ever,
to weave baskets from those thin green blades
that you have never touched. Remember.
It is a sin to dry the knives to gold.

 

 

Katherine Frain is a scatterbrained New Orleans poet who's not-quite-so-recently found herself ferried to South Carolina, coastal plains of pelicans that are more clumsy than she is. She is a rising senior at Wando High School currently attending the University of Iowa's Young Writers Studio for the summer.