A SOUTHERN RHETORIC
"It's a sight in this world
the things in this world
there are to see!" my mother says
as she hurries between the stove
and Sunday table. She is just back
from vacation. Happy.
Talking mountains. Talking rivers.
Big cedars and tidal bores.
When I tease her for redundancy,
her face glows like a sturgeon moon
risen above fat buttery atolls
of biscuits, steaming promontory
of roast. She shakes her finger
in my face and scolds me good:
"Girl, don't you forget who it was
learned you to talk."
Amazing she would want
to lay claim to these syllables
piling up like railroad salvage
when I speak, to these words slow as hooves
dredging from the wet of just-plowed fields.
I watch her turn, embarrassed, to the sink,
to the pots and pans she will scrub
to a gleam so bright we can see ourselves
as if the two of us stared back
from the lost rhetoric of memory.
From the little house, the crib where
she bent each day, naming
for me the world where words always fail,
warranting, now and then,
those few extra syllables,
some things spoken twice.
© Cathy Smith Bowers, 1996, 1998.