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"Words' Worth" Poetry Readings

Poets at the Culture, Arts, and Parks Committee of the Seattle City Council.

Carolina Blues By Marcel Parker

United States down south Carolina
New Orleans, Louisiana, Mississippi
Florence, Pamplico     I've got the blues.

Speakeasies are calling an end to prohibition
we're prohibiting sex, pulling knives to our throats
marking signs step over step away     step out
through the tobacco fields, rat filled apartments
I'm just trying to find my way home blues.

Living down home going uptown I watch
working class girls toss back, the word beautiful
with explanations of poverty, over priced beauty salons universities

Rena Belle stands at the grill of Uli's Quickburger
for twelve hours a day from eight to eight flipping the bloody
hey lady make it rare.     Drops fists of cornmeal batter to the fryer
empties baskets of hush puppies onto paper plates and the meeting
of Rena Belle's breasts pools in a funnel of fish fry diner sweat.

Sundays the sweaty preacher man makes
Southern Baptist redemption sweet like magnolia blossoms
or pine needles after a thunder storm. Rena Belle's
knees never touch church altars her life is the life of nicotine
dust and work and more work to make babies
so her babies can make babies giving birth to
trailer parks, overturned oil drums, half empty whiskey flasks.
And one of her babies gives birth to poverty
and poverty gives birth to me with a sound
like a tin crash head-ache in the deep south

Uncle Billy breeds hound dogs in the back
of his boarded-up supped-up El Camino takes off for weeks
fathering this new religion of loneliness Uncle Billy
has washed his hands of children
and potatoes and a wife named Fanny Jo.
Who raises three generations
of babies     works three sets of jobs while
Uncle Billy goes out back with hound dogs singing
they worked me like a dog, pulp mill, paper mill blues
And Fanny Jo at work, an' in the kitchen with the kids singing
my baby's gone an left me laundry stone hard at workin' blues
living down home going uptown department stores fast food restaurants
I've been watching working class girls toss back the word beautiful

with a one two, a one two     three
decades of excuses exploding hot grease from the fryer
in poverty shaped burn patterns
in rhythm to ovarian cancer, tobacco field melanoma, false
teeth, stew beef soup stock, smoker skin, she says she's found
Jesus at the end of a sawed off smokin' shot gun barrel,
but these thin housecoat excuses are tearing me up
I see you     and you are beautiful
Growing babies as fast as butter beans, pulling barbecue
from the bone spitting out apologies of poverty
snapping babies in half, three-quarters in quarters
slicing them lengthwise     now the babies are leaving

for credit card mini-vans high speed DSL internet connections
in suburban houses, They're raising second
generation confederates who don't know the taste
of plastic porch swings, empty roads
vinyl couches, or okra plants, but I know the church rising like thunder
in empty pine fields hound dogs and shot guns
callused hand dirty boot sweaty cap poor men these babies
can't taste anything, their bodies have been turned off
this debt of poverty is growing exponentially
with mortgage payments, and down payments, and credit card bills
we are burning up like
bacon grease everything but the money is running out
the money was never there in the first place
So I'm going out back with Uncle Billy, Fanny Jo, and Rena Belle
and together we're singing those sweet down home Carolina
Oh, I've got the Blues.

This page was last updated: January 8, 2000
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