A lot has happened in the months Since I’ve stopped posting every Saturday. I participated in NaNoWriMo and completed my goal, completed another residency at Spalding University, began working on my Extended Critical Essay, another reason why I haven’t posted anything to my blog recently and on the way to 2016 I lost several family members but still have the memories they left behind. Looking forward I hope to keep posting projects that I’m working on but sadly I’ll have to withhold anything that will be submitted to literary magazines and contests. Sorry about that. However, my posts will focus more on my personal journey as a writer, discussing the process of the ECE, my NaNo highs and lows as well as anything else I feel like posting which you may or may not wish to read.
While at the Fall residency for my MFA program, I was introduced to George Ella Lyon’s poem entitled Where I’m From and thought it would be a fitting format to follow for this piece dedicated to my uncle.
The Man That Was
I was from cotton fields, sugar cane and corn stalks. Sweet potatoes with flakes of dirt landing on my tongue. Peach cobbler, collard greens with ham hocks and cornbread crumbs when times were good. Muddy catfish, fried onions and squirrel stew when times were bad, eyes and hands multiplying with the growing pressures to work, to provide, to survive.
I was from the winter of 1932, born in a city lost in the in between. Between Braxton and Jackson, railroad tracks carrying wood and steel to the distant mills, my unspoken future. Between the homes of my grandparents, uncles, aunts and a multitude of cousins. Between cow pies, saddles and slaughter houses. In the fall of 1934, I became the second oldest, always watching over the brother who would share the same drive to work as me.
I was from the unexplored lights of casinos. Bells, slots and siren songs coaxing women in automatic scooters and chain smoking men to fad in front of their screens. I was from long drives into the night, my daughter humming hymns passed from her mother to keep my blurred vision at bay. It was loud then, my life with three children and a wife to comfort me. A job to keep me away from the siblings aging without knowing me. A job to support the mother who loved me. Tired from the pressures of responsibility, the swelling eyes of hunger from my nine younger siblings gazing upon me for guidance, I hand the wheel to my daughter who carries her mother’s voice. My favorite soloist.
I was from ambition, which I passed to my children. I dreamed of ranches, farms and gardens, of wealth and family gatherings, an endless supply of food. A life outdoors to design, construct and create whatever I wanted. To live how I wanted away from the in between, the encroaching menace named hunger. From the hollow chill left by the absence of Sonny, my brother, my partner, my friend. The haunting lack of laughter from my son, Andre and my wife, Timi. Old photographs align bookshelves, walls and the edges of my dresser. I am from those moments. My bones curl, unable to sustain my weight, hair fading, receding like my appetite. Heavy footfalls fade into a steady shuffle.
I am the memories in the form of dreams, the songs you hear from the choir to the quiet nights behind the wheel. I am the food I enjoyed, the beans I consumed, the hotdogs I hardly remember and the deserts I devoured. I am in your prayers, in the successes of my children and grandchildren. From the fields, the church and the dessert sun, I was Murdock Buckhaulter.