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Southern Heritage

by Bet Yeldem

Car doors slamming were always a signal to me
either put on five extra
Wonder-Woman under-roos and run and hide,
if I’d done something wrong,
if I’d had a good day, to
hurry to fix a glass of iced sweet tea and go
stand by the door with an outstretched
arm waiting to trade it for
a worn briefcase
when my father got home in the evening.

These days, it sounds like I was
trained well to be
a fifties housewife. My six year old self
was so happy to sit at the foot
of my father’s recliner,
hand him a plated snack before dinner,
and slip his boots off after his hard day of work,
so proud to be of service,
so pleased to be useful and bring him the television remote.

It sounds horrid, I know,
like the beginning of a bad story
where Neanderthals who’ve learned
twang-infused accents,
live in unspeakable circumstances,
like how people are afraid to visit the South
after watching Deliverance,
but my childhood was lovely, truly.

It’s almost scary, though,
how easily, by the age of nineteen,
singing lullabies to our baby,
I was forced into Stepfordesque servitude...…
except, I didn’t know how to keep my place
according to your warped southern sensibilities. Instead, I wrote my name in the air
with a finger that was born to point out the obvious
like the fact that a marriage license
is, in fact, not a property deed.

I was always surprised that you seemed surprised
to come home to an empty house,
save a note on the table:
I’m leaving you.
I’m taking everything I can fit in the car.
You’re out of sweet tea, plates, and luck.
p.s. I cleaned the t.v. remote with battery acid,
and your boots are in the bottom of the lake.


Posted on 01/12/2009
Copyright © 2024 Bet Yeldem

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