dVerse Poets Pub – Meeting the Bar – narrative: Kudzu

Victoria is in charge of the Poets Pub today, asking us to write a first person narrative. I do not usually write such long poems but this one has been working inside my brain for a year and I decided to finally let it out. The Pub opens at 3:00 pm EST. Come visit. And I hope this long one doesn’t bore you – it’s almost as long as a tendril of kudzu….

public domain image

public domain image

“The night the Kudzu has your pasture, you sleep like the dead.” James Dickey: Kudzu
The summer before we married
I told my fiancé about a road trip – taken by
a friend and I in my flower child salad days.
Walter died the summer of ‘93
From lung cancer. I looked
at the kudzu taking over an abandoned house
and remembered:
Twenty years earlier we both
were employed in a new restaurant genre –
Vegetarian…health food/hippie food with
Poetry readings every weekend –
Usually long rambling self-important
rants about the government, The Man, peace,
Sex, drugs, and Ravi Shankar. The ones about peace
Were always angry which I never understood why…

But one night the owner/chef went off on a bad bad trip, man
And I was pulled off the line and did the job that night
So much better, I was promoted – on.the.spot.

The restaurant had the unfortunate soubriquet of
Chez Kudzu….lord have mercy on us
but it was at a time all Southern Writers were
writing reams about kudzu and sweet tea
and Walter read how all kudzu was just really one plant
stretched out for vining miles.
Chez Kudzu closed for two weeks in July
And Walter and I decided to follow the kudzu,
starting with the kudzu forest in Duke Forest.
He and I followed the kudzu twined on the power lines there
all the way to Charlotte where we pulled over
in the soft July night and smoked a joint
and breathed in the aroma of the cornfield
On both sides of us –
In the humid air – sweeter and more fragrant
than the Thai pot that made our ears buzz
and the air vibrate with the sound of cicadas
and frogs and the trill of bats
On that black country road.
he went to sleep and I watched a summer storm
in the distance – watched the distant flashes of lightning
and inhaled the scent of rain with a sense of deep peace –
The scent of distant rain floating
over the perfume of the corn
and rich earth and wild creeping jasmine –
I inhaled the fragrance of lemon and Thai and rain
And when the storm hit,
I felt the car shiver in the wind but
I never closed the windows letting myself
be purified by the incoming rain –
in the lightning flashes
looking up at the ghosts of kudzu climbing up
telephone poles and moving steadily south
by way of the wires. I watched it stretching
towards the rain and the deeper south
and could I hear it as it grew and twined.
And the song of it lulled me to sleep.

I awakened early in the morning –
The sound of birds and Walter snoring
and the sound of a dog barking –
away across the fields.

I started to awaken Walter
and then stopped –
Creeping in the car window
wrapped around my wrist
was kudzu – grown in the night
while I slept – fed on my dreams
And Southern summer night air.

free public domain image

free public domain image

4th Floor Walk-up

artwork by Danny Gregory, used by permission, taken from his Flickr page

artwork by Danny Gregory, used by permission, taken from his Flickr page

This is submitted to dVerse Poetics where we are writing to the art of Danny Gregory.

I remember that summer well,
whenever I see the sun come through
the window at a certain angle,
or smell the sweet smell of old dry wood,
or I hear the first opening bars of
Baba O’Riley.

All the way up those stairs
sweating and taking a rest
on the third flight.
Smelling the meals of other people,
pot from that quiet man on the second floor.

Hot hot summer.
Up on the roof at night
looking down at the crowded streets,
looking up to the sky, a strange
orange from all the lights
and not really a sky, just a…
piece of canvas I guess.

Sitting in someone’s lawn chair,
lugged up there for the purpose
of finding repose.
I remember well that night
I climbed to the roof
with a cold six pack.
I couldn’t face that tiny
apartment full of faded plants,
books waiting to be studied,
and a lethargic shower.
And on the roof,
the young man sitting in the – his
lawnchair. he looked startled
that someone else would come up.
I hesitated.
Then, want to share a six pack?
And he smiled.

So we drank and smoked his
pot and talked…talked…talked…
We both wrote bad poetry and
we didn’t care.
We were tired of studying,
wanted to find a cool patch of green
We stayed up there until sunrise.
We watched the sun climb before
we started down the stairs
to our apartments.

I remember that summer well.
I often wonder,
Do you still write bad poetry?
Do you remember me
and that first morning
you brought me coffee?

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