After Sean Hill
From my lips I stitch a quilt,
a crooked song that weaves its way around
South Carolina, a pie shape that conjures food —
ice tinkling in glasses of amber tea or heat rising
off rich red velvet cake layers too sweet like the words I was raised on,
words that say, if you don’t have nothin nice to say, lace it with sugah.
Where I from there’s always more, like the twos and threes
that rolled out my grandma’s Gullah mouth, Hush your mouth, chile.
wasn’t a command for silence but a signal for the teller to keep on spinning
‘cause their words hit bone. I studied her lit lantern codes,
We gwine down yonder in the merrnin.
Not a pronouncement to a destination,
but a place where she’d teach a lesson – Patience.
At her foot a coffee can full of night crawlers,
in her mouth a cigarette she barely puffed,
in her hands a homemade fishing rod.
Line steeped in the water waiting for hook tug.
She never said the word, just stood live oak like
grounded in her own gnarled wisdom.
Waiting for me to catch hold.
Root myself. I studied her every time I got a chance.
Hunched in her favorite recliner,
King James Bible on the left —
her eyes forward soaking in wrastlin.
Her faith steady in her Lord and Ricky Steamboat.
I was rapt at how she’d contort herself,
as if she were choke holding demons in Jesus’ name.
while burning tufts of her hair in a glass ash tray,
raked from her comb, so no one could work a root.
Grandma taught me to, Watch as well as pray .
See there’s always more to words than their saying.
Some call it a backwards tongue, I call it a knowing,
If you listen and learn how to sing it.