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Song of Harrison and Jefferson Counties, or Why I Was Addicted to Gasoline for Ten Years

Here is a portrait of the area where I grew up (thank God I don't live there anymore!!). It's not as flowery as my other work, but it's not as long either, so you have no reason to run away. :-)

Go to school? If you want,
but knowledge won’t be scrapin’
the pieces of your five year-old son
off the blades of that reapin’ machine.
Yins gotta do that your damn self.
And your man’s heritance is collectin’ dust
behind the doors of that steel mill
the government done locked up
and boiled the key to.
That’s why your man is spendin’
them endless days at the bar,
them endless nights with my cousin.
Yins’ll be seein’ her at church.
She’s singin’ in the choir
and bringin’ a covered dish
to the next function. I don’t wanna see
no fussin’ at no charity. When she asks you
where your man’s at,
I expect you to be a lady. Got me?
And no, it ain’t enough
that your daddy raped you, then moved in
next door when he left your mama. No,
it ain’t enough that your mama cut your finger
off when you lost that fight
back in high school. No, it ain’t enough
that your cousin done shot the face
off your brother when his beer was stolen.
Girls don’t do nothin’
for a town, got me? Boobies make us
trash. We’ll never be one of them special girls
in the movies. Best get used to life with nothin’
before yins kill yourself.
Your neighbor died
two weeks ago, but y’all
just found her body yesterday.
Stinkin’ up her double-wide
and bein’ eaten by the dog,
she gave yins somethin’
to look forward to.

29 Mar 07

Rated 8.8 (8.2) by 7 users.
Active (7): 4, 10, 10, 10, 10
Inactive (15): 1, 1, 1, 7, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10

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Wow! nice poem.
 — hank

who are you?
 — hank

i was reading derek walcott tonight, a master of his own colloquial speak.
you've really done it well here.
 — hank

Thanks hank. And in case you didn't read the message boards a few weeks ago, I'm the Corpse Bride. :-D
 — BrideInBlack

wow, fucking great reread too. don't care to read word for word to edit your work (which it doesn't need) because it's so damn good and to read word for word to try and find something literary to say with a piece like this seems insulting, although that is what people seem to think what criticizing (sp?) is about. i will read this lots. beautiful use of tongue.
 — hank

which thread?
 — hank

Um, it's either "Introduction myself" or "Introduction." Just look for me as the original poster: BrideInBlack.
 — BrideInBlack

ah, saw it. don't much get over to the message board. lots of well..silly stuff. you're new, obviously talented. check out bettalpha, gnormal, rixes, noodleman, varun, kitkat (if she's still around, 'the episcopalien sp? kind'). for starters.
 — hank

Thanks! I'll definitely check them out.
 — BrideInBlack

where do you live now?
 — hank

fuck hell, nice poem.
 — hank

In the city, with nice, polite, intelligent, interesting, non-abusive people who don't hate women nearly as much (although the other girls here are blonde, beachy ditzes :-p)!!
 — BrideInBlack

in the city. yikes.
i understand your desire to be vague.
 — hank

Of course; street smart exists not only on the street. I appreciate your empathy.
 — BrideInBlack

of all the stop-me-reread lines, these were the ones...

it ain’t enough that your mama cut your finger  
off when you lost that fight  
back in high school

this is a slamming piece of work. i love it.

thank you
 — ilenelush

and the title is great.
 — ilenelush

damn. nice poem.
 — varun

Yowee! I don't know where you grew up, but I've met people from places like this before. I have respect for those that make it out alive.
To be able to express it so well is icing!
 — Nerva

This is great, paints a very colourful picture of your home town.
 — angrychick

Recent best already too, well done BrideInBlack.
 — angrychick

gone done durndwell
suckd m'right inta th'die lect
even in th' woods as wuznt done die lekted f'r me

well done
 — chuckles

Yep, these are all true stories about what happened to me and the people I knew (even the dead body being eaten by the dog). Except the mother cutting the finger off; the person got their finger cut off, not by their mother, but their mother did laugh and say, "Well, that's what you get for pickin' a fight with the wrong person!" And I've never done dialect like this for a poem, and I must admit it was really hard for me. I'm glad to hear it worked so well. :-)

Anyway, I'm really not sure about the second-to-last stanza. I like it because it expresses the overall feeling towards girls, but I'm not sure if I like where it's placed. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks everyone! This is by far the most helpful online workshop I've been participating in. I love you guys.  ---
 — BrideInBlack

Okay, I like it. Reminds me of Ricki Lake and Trailor Trash. I am Australian so a lot of the in-house americana low class refs are lost on me. Still, I appreciate it.

I like the women versus male thing. That is universal.

BrideInBlack - lets never be 'ladies'. Stuff that. Tis bullshit.

 — unknown

nice latter title, right off.

i like this a lot.
 — listen

This blew me away. What desolate and desperate lives some people live awash on a sea of superstitious ignorance, fear and loathing, which you capture so well through an authentic voice.

Larry fear and loathing Lark
 — larrylark

welcome to arkansaw

mike huckabee st3ntorian
 — unknown

Excellent poem!  L9 should be "too" not "to," right?  Otherwise, I like the voice of this poem and the "middle of nowhere" vibe that comes across and hit u in the face.  The ending is absolutely horrific and very well put to verse, I might add.  
 — starr

Nope.  That was just me not reading L9 correctly.  Now I got it and you're absolutely right.  It's "to."  Ma bad.  Heehee.  So here I am REreading this awesome shit again and knowing that it's so deserving of the Top Rated list.  It's a voice and so is poetry.  Good job!  Peaceout.  Starr
 — starr


Pretty bleak stuff.  What it does for you is perhaps theraputic.
There's no end of debased humanity.  I wonder, does the reading of the poem
by relatively unscarred-others, transfer anything of value to them?
What is gained for you? What is lost for the reader?  Does the reader want to see
the truths as the poem indicts the reader.  BTW, that's a manipulative device, having the poem lecture to the reader; it's also an easy way to pose the data.
No crits here of the poem; I only question the need for it, the motive, the imposition.
 — netskyIam

Takes me back to Georgia.

Much as I can appreciate the Southern Gothic nature of yer work -- and I really ain't tryin' to come down on ya -- but this is a short story.  It's got strong voice and story and what not, but it ain't got the poetic devices of imagery and metaphor and simile and so on, ya hear ('cept for the first stanza's "reaper blade", which is what hooked me right off the bat)?

I'm fixin' to go read yer other shit.  Reckon it'll be pretty good.
 — aurelius

I really, really like this, a fave.  I wouldn't start stanzas 2 and 4 with And.  It isn't necessary.  Take out those Ands and you have a PERFECT poem.  Thanks.  Despite this small quip, I'm giving it a ten.
 — mnemosyne

I really like what you're trying to do here, but it could use some tightening up.  It's ALMOST forced in a few places.  For example, I would say that at least ONE of the stanzas could be axed.  I'm sure you agree that a couple of the 'examples' are not as good as the others.  Less is more in this case.
 — aforbing

Fuckin' awesome.
 — deathbyirony

أنت مغفلة أمريكيّة. هذا الشيء مريضة أنا قد قرأت اليوم
 — saddam

very good.
 — Virgil

reminds me of a color purple. also beautiful.
 — pahs

Your prologue isn't necessary, and is almost a spoiler, but I'm nitpicking.  I've seen this life (or something similar to it) where I live, and you've done a terrific job here.  "Girls don't do nothin for a town" ... unfortunately, I expect that is more universal than we care to admit.  I'm not familiar with N's "accent" but despite the awful events and lives, I am just dying to HEAR that accent (beyond what I've attempted reading this aloud).  Does that make sense?  Your word choices are exquisite in parts, "heritance," "double wide" (umm, my Mom has one of those, GULP!).  Yins do some nice work.  Thank you for the read.
 — VeroniCat

I grew up in the southern sticks of the US myself.  My town of 10,000 was the largest one in our area, and my best friend graduated with a class of 17.  I cried with relief when I graduated high school and moved far, far away from home.  That being said, this felt a little over done.  I have no doubt that all of these stories are true, but to make it sound like it all happened to one person...well, makes this feel like some semi-offensive cliche of the south.  We don't need to over state things, hon, the reality is powerful enough.  The subtle melancholy and discontent of a stifling existence needs no colloquial caricatures.  Mixing a little of the beauty of the south (smells of fresh baked corn bread, old folks rocking on porch swings, homecoming bon fires) in with the harsh realities might even serve to juxtapose what you are trying to say here.  
That said, I've never hear yins before.  That doesn't mean, of course, that no one says it in your particular area.  Were you perhaps trying to get at "you 'ns" or "ya uns."  Also, a little hon, sweetie, or miss might also make this feel even more authentic.  In my area harsh statements were often prefaced or followed  by softening terms of endearment (i.e. "hon, we'll never be one of them special girls in the movies").  
 — cami