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An Ode to Carrie

Updated: Sep 5, 2020


The smell of the island is in my blood

The pluff mud at low tide, Confederate jasmine and my father’s roses

The scents of unfathomable beauty and calm

Swaddling my childhood in an Eden which begged to be doubted.

And yet for Southerners and samplers alike

There is no doubt

The spell cannot be broken

Once you have opened the coastal empire’s humid handiwork

It never leaves you.

My earliest memories are of babysitters

And a frantic family of grownups

In a constant flow of exits to somewhere else

That did not include me.

But my first fastening was with you, Carrie.

I may never know the full story

Of your exit from the smaller me

Who hung upon your every word and gesture

And loved the scent of lanolin and lavender

On your carefully pressed uniform

With its irrepressible white collar.

You were everything beautiful I knew

And you always waited for me at the door

After the bus dropped me at the beginning of our dirt lane

The world knew its orbit because you guided it with your working hands.

I did not learn Alone, until it found me after you.

Now I see your face a continent away

Within a scenery you never saw

A Pacific country where our color blends and bends

Like the sun prisms through the rolling fog

Which reminds the Bay's foghorns of the Lost

Who move here to find something.

Is it a different country

Or a different solar system?

My new home ignores the voices that strained

To muzzle yours and calmly emboldens

The echoing of your past which here dares to speak of disparity.

You might like it here

But you never knew another home

Than the coastal lowlands that owned your ancestors

And told you you were lucky to be my nanny

And should know your place.

Your place was with me, and I never heard those arrogant voices.

But you did.

Did you judge me for my ignorance at eight

Or did you take it in stride like

The universal dismissal of your rectitude

To the silenced service you gave

To raise another mother’s daughter.

I did not know anything

Except that you were everything that made me lucky.

A grace and power that had kept

Its dignity while remaining invisible to most

But never to me.

What happened to my little girl wisdom

That recognized your nobility

Whose family crest was decorated by unearned suffering.

How did you perform your miraculous feat

Of moving through that orbit system intact,

Within your miracle of warm determination

And a demeanor which whispered Your superiority?

I still hear Your whisper which

The Isle of Hope counterfeits had they paused to listen

Would only banish from their White reality.

They can not compete with your Sun

So they still tell a story

Where bigots are heroes

And authenticity stays drunk

Beneath the tree where Black boys

Were hung as a caution to those who would have it be different

That it is their truth moving the hand that holds the rope.

It was a lie you lived for me

To love and nurture me

To a trajectory which would always

Leave you out

As a bystander, even though every cell within me

Still screams your good name

And remembers my early Eden's spell which only you protected.


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