Southern Tragedy

Mama and Daddy with the airplane-She stood by her man, perhaps too long

Today, I heard,
is the birthday of Tammy Wynette.
What does it mean,
This stand by your man stuff?
How long do I stand and where?

Do I stand where they did?
Those women of post war fantasy,
By the stove, aproned, lipsticked and coifed?
In the aisle of the Winn-Dixie,
or the waiting room of the pediatrician.
By the bed of a child?

And while I stand there
I wait for the “Atta girl”
that Bill gave to Janet.*
I thought, that if I did those things
like a paint by number;
1: committee meeting,
2: field trip,
3: shiny floors,
4: homemade birthday cakes,
that I would wake up to the trumpet calls
and blue ribbons of Gabriel and the county fair.

But I didn’t even get an honorable mention.
And I completed my picture.
And I didn’t color outside the lines.
I was a good girl.
Step by step,
I completed all the requirements.
Well, why then,
did I wake up in the Piggly Wiggly
with my soul screaming for salvation?


This poem was inspired by an announcement of the birthday of Tammy Wynette on Public Radio. This poem was written when I was trying to come to grips with my Southern upbringing, my choices, and my future.

*refers to Pres. Bill Clinton’s supportive comments to Atty. General Janet Reno following the Waco, Texas massacre of the Branch Davidians.

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16 thoughts on “Southern Tragedy

  1. I wish i could answer your question – but you have put it so eloquently the answer, any answer could hardly do it justice. One of my favourite reads today.

    • Every week, my grandmother Irene would ask my grandfather to “drive her to the Dixie” to get the week’s groceries. She didn’t drive…and she always called it “the Dixie”.

  2. I think she left a verse or two off…

    Men if you want your
    woman to stand by you
    you better stand by her
    for all she does for you.

    It’s a two way street
    we’re in this thing together
    so if you stand by me
    We’ll be standing both together.

  3. I looked, but there was only a like button, not a LOVE IT button. What a wonderfully stated truth for so many women! They closed the Winn Dixie up here, and we never got a Piggly Wiggly…

    • Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your response to this poem with me. Yup, I miss the Winn Dixie’s but I still go to The Pig every week. It means a lot to know that this resonated with you!

    • Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing your LOVE with me. Like you, many of my poems cores come from my life though I try to work in the congruence with others’ lives as well. So when I know I’ve hit the mark, it makes me more than delighted.

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