Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Southern Hospitality


Submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight, Holiday Edition. Not very Christmassy, but the word Holiday reminded me of a song by Billie Holiday.

World Famous Southern Hospitality

and yet, not so many years
ago, we hung our black
brothers and sisters
from our leafy gallows
as we posed, grinning white
faces topped with jaunty
hats. Smoking, squatting
on fatty haunches,
or leaning against
the strange fruit-
bearing tree as if sharing
a neighborly moment
in the white clover yard
of the white narrow church.


lines 10-11: see the song “Strange Fruit” as sung by Billie Holiday

33 comments:

  1. feck, now that brings it right back...yeah that was not too long back...we finished the civil war in us history and in government we are talking civil rights, so i am teaching right in the thick of that southern hospitality...

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    1. Thanks Brian--a part of history I wish was untrue, but so it is.

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    1. Thanks Jasmine, I'm glad you thought so.

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  3. The ability of people to do terrible things, and justify it, knows no bounds.

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    1. Thanks Cosmo--the actions are bad enough alone, but the justifications afterward . . .

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  4. oh heck...this hits hard in its brevity...excellently penned

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    1. Thanks Claudia--sometimes shorter is better.

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  5. Your poem is equally as powerful as the song. As Claudia says, excellently penned.

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    1. Thanks Di, I've always been moved by the song, what a powerful image it portrays.

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  6. Yep, religion call pull people together for all sorts of gatherings. What they share is "WE -- me, and mine." Tribal power. We can't live with it or without it.

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    1. Yeah, religion can be twisted to accommodate all sorts of evil actions--whatever one thinks of St. Paul, he was right in at least one thing: without love, nothing else is of any advantage.

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    2. Well, that is the whole thing, isn't it. "Love" is often a huge disadvantage -- or we'd have more of it , I imagine.

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    3. Well, from a strictly materialistic, evolutionary standpoint, love can be a disadvantage--maybe it doesn't even make sense. I mean, if it's really all about us vs. them, then for my white race to thrive, why not eliminate any other race that is perceived as a threat? Or even those of my own race that compete with me for survival? Love vs. Power (or Will to Power)--perhaps love will always lose out in this game, but that's the side I'm on anyway.

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  7. I like the use of white, versus the black ~ Short but effective re-telling of the dark period in history ~

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    1. Grace, thank you. I've actually visited some places in the south where this dark period lives on--perhaps not in regular lynchings, but in the attitudes that made those lynchings possible.

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  8. A sad reminder of man's inhumanity to man...

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    1. Thanks Mary--I don't like to remember sad times, but it is often necessary.

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  9. Wow. As if sharing a neighborly moment...

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    1. That's the thing that strikes me when I see old photos of these lynchings--the utter casualness. Thanks Jenny.

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  10. that's some hospitality we could all definitely do without, but unfortunately not one we can (or should) forget.

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    1. Thanks RMP--there is some truth to the whole southern hospitality thing, but you're right about the need to remember the bad as well as the good.

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  11. Man, Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit,
    as i listen to this tune and re-read your PO
    the feelings our as heavy as ever: anger
    sadness, the weight of the words linger like
    restless blue-smoke looking for another victim . . .

    this subject could be easy to exploit
    or simply, 'make a bad job of'
    but you narrow it down to a suitable scope,
    keeping it simple and real -
    ugly enough to feel the evil vibes
    of indifference and callous cruelty.

    a shitty scene
    but
    nice work
    Nico

    all the best


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    1. Thanks Arron--when writing this I had in mind not just the song, but a couple of photographs. I tried to focus my poem on those limited (but revealing) images, which helped control the scope I think.

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  12. So glad the holiday connected you, some what circuitously to Holiday's song...powerful, thought-provoking post.

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    1. Thanks Victoria--I had listened to the song earlier in the week, so it was an easy association to make.

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  13. It always amazes me where our minds will go, making connections out of seemingly disparate things.

    Thank you for not laying on the sentimentality of this season and writing from the heart.

    Excellent piece that I would put in that same category of greatness as the song that inspired it.

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    1. Thanks AJ--you are too generous, (I would assess my poem MUCH lower than the song!), but thanks for motivating me to improve and continue to write what moves me.

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  14. touching write at Christmastime for it's message of peace resonating...thought I left a message last night but I must have fallen asleep in the wee hours...Happy Holidays...

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    1. Thank you, Katy. I have been a little remiss in commenting as well--I've been at work more than at home the last 2 weeks. I like the extra money, but it sure is cutting in to my poetry time! Well, heading off to work again.

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  15. Horrible to think about... wonderfully expressed.

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    1. Thanks Laurie--humans have done horrible things to each other over the course of history, painful but necessary to remember.

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