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.