THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Thursday, April 16, 2009
PAT RIVIERE-SEEL:The Serial Killer's Daughter
poems by Pat Riviere-Seel Main Street Rag Press ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-162-3 42 pages, $10
I met Pat Riviere-Seel in an Asheville workshop nearly ten years ago. Her work was sharp, sometimes searing, and obviously searching for its center of gravity. Since then, Pat has found that center, and in doing so has become a major voice in the NC poetry scene, having served as President of the NC Poetry Society, among other posts. She says she is a recovering journalist, so maybe that's why she was drawn to the material in this new book of poetry. As Pat told me, "These poems grew out of an exercise that I designed for a class I taught for the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA. They are the poems I never thought I would write. Velma Barfield’s story has been told in many ways – newspapers, magazines, a nonfiction book. Even Velma wrote a book about her life that was published after her execution. But the daughter’s story is one that stayed with me. I can’t imagine what it would be like to discover that my mother had killed numerous people, including my grandmother and possibly my father. Even the best mother-daughter relationships are complex. Although based on actual and reported events, these poems are all works of imagination."
Pat lives in the mountains of western North Carolina with her husband and two spoiled housecats. They share the woods with black bears, wild turkeys, and numerous other wild creatures. Pat often composes poems while running trails and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her first collection of poems, No Turning Back Now, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2004 and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Pat is an associate editor of the AshevillePoetry Review. She has taught poetry at UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program and College for Seniors. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.
My mother slung slurred words at my father,
railed against the evil of alcohol. He swung back with
how could she, who drugged herself silly,
condemn him for a few beers with buddies after work.
She said she needed her medicine. He said he needed
the woman he married. A scene repeated like shrill cicadas.
Afterwards, I found Daddy hunched in the swing he’d hung, staring at something
I couldn’t see. Ashes from his cigarette fell as he inhaled deep and turned.
Ah, shug, he said and shook his head. That woman’s gonna kill me.
After My Mother is Arrested and Charged with Murder
It’s not as easy as you might think, up every morning, dressed and out to the only job I’ve ever had – the promised promotion gone even though I’m the best at what I do, sorting coats, sweaters by size.
I know the inventory, where to find hairpins, which aisle holds light bulbs. I keep up with the sales and never let anyone use my discount. Ten years I’ve never missed a day or clocked in late.
Yesterday my boss laid his hand on my shoulder, said, I’m sorry and disappeared before I turned around. I feel customers stare and sometimes think I hear a whispered, monster. Or was it mother that I heard?
Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen next. I’ll tell you: at the end of the day four small arms will circle my neck, I’ll fry chicken, bake rolls, and pray to any god that will listen.
His voice is not unkind. For a moment we are two
friends reminiscing, words pressing between us
through fog and dust. I am a girl again, unpinning
clothes from the line, denim that holds the scent of sun.
I stand in the yard under a sky blue as Mother’s eyes, my arms
filled with sheets and overalls. I will myself to stay –
hear my name, and realize I am sitting on a hard chair,
concrete walls close enough to touch. I try to hide
my shaking hands. Did you – Did you kill Stuart Taylor?
I want to be a good girl, say what he wants to hear. Yes, I say,
easy as slipping liquid into Stuart’s tea, relief filling me the way my bed
comforts when I wake. Yes, I say, just let me sleep.
The Last Appeal
When the telephone rang everyone in the room froze – the daughter, who had been exchanging corny pick-up lines with the cameraman, the producer who had tried distracting everyone with boring stories and bad jokes so the moment would seem normal.
And what – precisely – is normal the day before your mother’s execution
When the telephone rang, the daughter remembered the night her husband’s rage rang and rang when he aimed the bat at her temple, the crash as he smashed the receiver.
Answer it! Go on, answer it!
When the telephone rang for the third time, the producer sprang toward the daughter who had been flirting with the possibility that the call would never come.
Answer it! Go on, answer it!
When the telephone rang for the fourth time, the daughter drifted toward the beige receiver, reached down and almost touched it, but said – I can’t.
No one here knows about Mama. When asked,
I say my parents are dead. True enough. After the execution
I borrowed money from my aunt for gas home. My brother
rode with me, both of us smoking unfiltered Camels, saying little.
It was what I wanted, to be left alone, but somehow the emptiness felt
more like a burden than relief. Even sorrow failed to fill me.
By summer, when the corn was ready for harvest, silk tassels waving
like a promise, I took my girls, a few clothes, and drove south.
I didn’t stop until I saw palm trees and beaches. What I craved
was something constant, even if only a season. The girls stopped
asking about Grandma. I stopped trying to make sense out of what Mama did.
What I’ve got here is a little house, promotion to manager last week,
and a few friends who call me Carolina, because of the way I talk.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.