Scrub Palmetto

Suzanne Rhodenbaugh

Swamp,
the thrill of flat roads in flat country,
the exquisite child
counting the record number of mosquito bites
on skin still hot under calamine.

Tongue wants to say
scrub palmetto,
as if coming out of it
were an accomplishment.
How many times I've told a Yankee
Royal Palms aren't common,
that most of the land

is scrub palmetto.
They think I've survived
rattlers and cottonmouths,
especially when I add one grandfather dead
from Okefenokee Swamp yellow fever.
Such salty mystery I give these Yankees!

I give green tomato pickle
on heathen laden tables,
white pique dresses on sunburned backs,
a smidgin of violence-
the grandmother's suicide,
the burning of the turpentine still,
the fatal appendix of Uncle Ashley
—are all good for that,

but mostly I say scrub palmetto,
and leave it to them
to work up their own
redneck apparitions.
Oh the thrill
of flat roads in flat country.

 

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