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Southern Exposure

Bring me your silent lake in the woods
and your field of harvested grain

with some rich man's horse pastured nearby,
its eyes pearlescent, its tangled mane.

Bring your late November rain,
your hurricane plywood and muscle car

the sounds of lovemaking under the bridge,
your troublesome blurry stars.

Her hair's in your mouth, her breath
a soft whistle, a baby bird

here and then gone, the roses
planted next to the porch

slowly turning black in the dawn.
Nothing tastes better than grits

and eggs, eating French toast
and watching new snow

dusting the crepe myrtle branches,
frozen magnolia leaves clattering below.

It's a winter Sunday in the pine-tar South
and the gray sky like distant satin

covers the roads and the smoky woods
where mash whiskey cooks in a kettle

and Lincoln's ghost squats in Oakwood Cemetery
bent down, counting the Confederate dead.

It's a scientific fact that it takes a year
for the earth to go around the sun

and I'm still a stranger in this world
of the battle lost and the battle won

though a pound of cotton weighs the same
as a pound of tendon or bone

and there might be a copperhead in the leaves
outside the funeral home

and sometimes the blues moans like a prayer
and sometimes it spits out a curse

and even if you can't see all the scars
you can tell if something hurts.

Joseph Millar

American Poetry Review

January/February 2017

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