The Beating Heart o’ Dixie

Mrs. Marrion’s eyes clung to the coffin
For some time before deciding
To instead engage the future.
Red and bereft of tears,
They moseyed to the traumatized doughball
That had blessed her womb
9 years, 6 months, and 17 days prior.
I can’t navigate him along the road to manhood,
Never been down the road myself,
But, Lord as my witness, a fine man’s comin’ outta this boy.

Subdivision concrete sure ain’t country soil, but
Mrs. Marrion put her heart, soul, and sweat into that boy,
‘Cause the South had taught her that the best way to gamble was to work for the prize.
Soon as the boy could, he thanked her kindly
By growing into one of those right fine Southern boys
Who had a sway and stomp that always kept rhythm
And a sustained dedication to his craft,
Which, in his case, could be seen weekends on any youth stage in Mobile.

Mrs. Marrion’s son was a man by fifteen,
Carrying that age-old predilection for boats, bucks, and beers.
Around that time he started sharing cigarettes with his best friend on the back porch,
Even though she was needing thicker glasses those days.

Dual affinities for inspiring pleasure and garnering praise
Fed his songs, his dances, and his dramatic-comedic pursuits.
After he learned to translate those skills over to his conversations,
It was only a matter of months ‘til
Mobile’s private school social circles
Made a pretty kaleidoscope Venn diagram with him in the center.
Waxing preppy for the oldboys’ sons’ cliques
Got him drunken beach-house audiences on weekends,
And the others, the outsiders, enjoyed his role
As the pleasantly arch father-figure in the dressing room.
Impressing the crowd,
He chewed all the conservative sneer and the covert racism
Packed by his richer ilk and poorer kin, and,
As was his way,
Spat it all into the grass to make all his friends laugh
At all the silly Southern ghosts.

These days, he sips his Bud Lights with Tuscaloosa frat-brothers—
Singing solos to the sisters and flirting heartily with theater girls,
Having matriculated into his role as social ambassador
‘Tween the preps and punks of the Crimson City.

He had no other choice but to stay close to home
When his mom and his destiny were of the same red soil.
And even though it ain’t on the stage or the field or in the office,
The man is perfect for his vocation.
(File him under the “third-wave integration” movement,
To make it nice and historical.)

Guaranteed to be a damn good dad
To some damn good kids
Who’ll get his vaccine gospel from his kisses
And talk it right into the bloodstream of the state..

My money says he’s gonna wizen comfortably into my favorite kinda fella—
One of those chainsmoking, smiling gerontics
Who dispenses wisdom, warmth, song, and comedy, in equal measure,
From a plastic chair on his deck
To the patchwork houseguests who love him,
All while he gets grayer with his wife
To whom he devotes all of his senescing energies
Just as Mrs. Marrion would’ve liked.

Now listen,
Death’ll get him for the cigarettes, or maybe diabetes,
Or something else terribly generic.
But it matters none. Because, frankly,
In men’s lives,
The finale don’t mean near as much as the show.

 

Vincent Mitchell was raised in the countryside of Kushla, AL. He once dreamed of becoming a Zorro-like vigilante who stole action figures from toy-stores and kept them for himself. He still dreams of this. Send him an email at vincent.mitchell@yale.edu.

Comments are closed.