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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