Crossroads

“If I could stir
I could break a tree—
I could break you.”
H.D.’s “Garden

Once I thought there were two
       kinds of Southern women
               the ones who stay
and the ones who leave
       I thought it was a choice
               and an easy one
that any
       body could plough through
               the humidity
could scrape
       a silhouette
               blooming
like a Bradford pear
       tree into a dirt road
               let the dew
erode the curves
       as calloused feet
               bleed
and break
       uproot
               But I misspoke
then
       There’s a difference
               between stay and stuck
between leave
       and luck
               I wanted to know
if the myths were true
       I followed the Devil
               to Clarksdale, Mississippi
stood at the Crossroads
       marked
               by a faded sign
hot and ghostly I looked
       further down
               at a woman my age
her belly spilt
       over her shorts
               rounding
and rounding
       glistening in July’s heat
               her other children pressing
like grapes against her legs
       and my stomach a pear turning
               pink in this city of legend
of Blues
       This is not my story
               to tell
She is not my petal
       to collect
               and press
into a picture book
       for proof
               that I said a prayer
or made a deal
       to stir

Genesis Note: In my final MFA workshop, we were asked to consider a poem all women should read. I remembered H.D.— how taken I was with her mythic language, as well as her careful recalling of Sappho, a lineage of the power of the female voice. “Crossroads” is inspired by and borrows language from “Garden.”

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