I still can’t get it right
by Kathryn Stripling Byer
I don’t know. I still can’t get it right,
the way those dirt roads cut across the flats
and led to shacks where hounds and muddy shoats
skulked roundabouts. Describing it sounds trite
as hell, the good old South I love to hate.
The truth? What’s that? How should I know?
I stayed inside too much. I learned to boast
of stupid things. I kept my ears shut tight,
as we kept doors locked, windows locked,
the curtains drawn. Now I know why.
The dark could hide things from us. Dark could see
what we could not. Sometimes those dirt roads shocked
me, where they ended up: I watched a dog die
in the ditch. The man who shot him winked at me
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2001 by Kathryn Stripling Byer from her most recent book of poems, Southern Fictions, Jacar Press, 2011. Descent, her new collection, is forthcoming from LSU Press. Reprinted by permission of Kathryn Stripling Byer and the publisher.
About the Author:
Kathryn Stripling Byer is an American poet and formerly served as North Carolina’s Poet Laureate.