It didn’t take many years to realize I was a Southerner, a slow, dumb,
redneck hick, a hayseed, inbred and racist, come from poverty,
condemned to poverty: descendent of Oglethorpe’s debtor prisons.
--Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
Cracker children are allowed to be
children, in their high chairs—spoons
overhead like torches in the Puritan forest,
misfits, woodwose, Jezebels yawping
for MORE! beet mush
even as it covers their feedbag,
forehead, soles of their keyring-size
Little do they know
will soon splotch
their lily-white faces,
the altarcloth of their four-
chambered chalice of joy
and sorrow. As soon as they start
their periods, take Communion, park
in the cul-de-sac on Lover’s Lane,
it will all be over—whatever
kept them from becoming
yellow dogs and bigots, no-
counts, leaches fattened
on the government’s tick hound.
skinny-dipping the same gene pool
with snapping turtles, tongues twisted
around their eye teeth
so they can’t see
what they’re saying.
great-uncle was a bastard
unmentioned in the county annals.
Great-aunt Mary Margaret shot
her husband on the toilet
with her lady pistol.
So many land-poor cousins
or crazy, were locked up,
put away or shut themselves in
some squatters’ cabin.
Crackers take refuge in ethical precepts
of non-attachment that distance them
from that complicated heritage, forget
where they put the family Bible
detailing patrimony customs
for drawing off one’s sandal
only to throw it in the river
of true riches, make fried pies
from apples that did not fall
far from the tree.
But that crime scene
moment in the kitchen,
brilliant with vermilion—
they are citizens of no country
but babyhood, not yet Redskins or Cowboys,
Giants or Patriots, fans of no team
but a planet that produces pearlescent
onions with snow peas, cherry tomatoes
and non-chlorine bleach.
About Amy Wright