A Slow Unpacking - Joyce Compton Brown

‘You don’t love because: you love despite; not for its virtues but despite its faults.’
William Faulkner

I’ve been dragging an old bag
of Southern through the years ‒
all those grandfathers, some with the spiteful
gray uniform ‒ mothers, with their recipes
for reunion days, the easy naiveté
of a small town ‒ Neil’s Grocery, and Poole’s
Dime ‒ where I learned to make change,
to be taught that racism was the norm.

And these old churches,
town cornerstones, the stiff Lutheran
one, packed with lists of don’t’s,
but spilling forth sweet harmony
in roiling tunes. Teetotaler weddings
with Kool Aid punch and butter mints
underlaid by good moonshine stories
of my German grandfathers ‒

their pride, their love of land, their greed.
Grandmothers bearing too many children
for working the farm, cooking, canning,
tending the garden till they dropped.
Mine is a too-pale Southernness ‒
pale mayors, sheriffs, and county registrars,
Where tax officers charged two dollars
for a black man to vote if he didn’t own land.
And how could he possibly own land?

And still I speak with dropped gs and extra rs.
icons of my roots. But oh, ice cream churns
and watermelons cracking open on the front
porch and county fairs and lightning bugs,
reunions, country fried steak and my mother’s
chocolate pie ‒ all in that burdensome
bag of old joys, sorrows, and regrets
brimming with forgiveness and hope.

Joyce Compton Brown considers herself one of those late-life blossoms among the beautiful young. Years of teaching and scribbling gave her the courage to delve into her writing more deeply after an early retirement. She maintains a lifelong interest in Appalachian and upcountry Southern culture, particularly roots music. She plays the banjo not well but with pleasure. Her most recent achievement is an old-time rendition of “Just Load the Wagon,” a silly old song revived within the bluegrass world. Another diversion is painting and drawing, for fun and with a bit of feeling.  Otherwise, the husband, Les, and the cat, Gracie, fill the spaces in her life not taken up with writing poetry and a bit of non-fiction.

She has four books of poetry published by reputable small presses and is most grateful that she has a handful of poems that she’s proud of.