I’m New Here

Having only lived here 20 years, it will take much longer
For me to stuff all my light under a barrel,
to enjoy cloying sweet tea conversations.
I didn’t name my daughters Walker, Smith, or even Betty Sue.
My husband and sons have no Roman numerals after their names
And none of my uncles are called Bubba.

I haven’t owned white gloves since 1965.
I never think to ask new neighbors, “Where do you go to church?”
I still can’t make a decent cucumber sandwich.
I confess I hate okra and collard greens,
Although I will sometimes push them around on my plate.
One always has to be polite.
I don’t fry up bacon with my green beans, which makes me a bad cook.
I don’t expect to try to improve.

When my writer friends damn Yankees, they remember to count me out.
I understand they can’t help still being mad about “The War of Northern Aggression.”
Loyalty to ancestors is a good thing. I have a little more trouble with
chats about how the Blacks ruined our bus system.

I love azaleas and Wisteria. I treasure my bud vase made from red clay dirt.
I relish summer downpours, stand on the porch and watch until the water shuts off
as suddenly as it came.
I marvel at the size of the moon. I admire the green arrowhead chinaberry leaves.
We don’t take down our gum trees, but I never go out barefoot to get the paper.

I have found and photographed the flowers of the kudzu vine, but have yet to make kudzu-blossom jelly.
For some reason I still don’t sound like a person from Alabama.
Perhaps because my heart has never been here.

—Ester Prudlo, Fitchburg, WI