Commonplace
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www.common-place.org · vol. 14 · no. 1.5 · November 2013
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Poetic Research Department


Megan Pugh
Poems
Statement of Poetic Research


Gunning Birds

She kept the Yankees from burning her home
by refusing to leave the bed, and when a few estates
over the gorgeous girl fainted how could even the least
gallant soldiers bear to do her harm?

Got a quarter if you bit into shot
in the Christmas goose. Maybe
a trip to the dentist. I have had

some good and high-priced wines in my day wrote Marius but nothing
tasted finer than that cider from the carpenter's shop on the island, fleeing
Virginia with blockade runners on a leaky boat. Left his step-grandma the only
white person on the plantation surrounded by 160 slaves, and on the ship
picked fights with Northern boys.

Columns, a chimney,
no house. Curtains of moss
but no walls. The Earl

of Marsh Mud
made them make his
living in a swamp.

Drinking juleps on the porch pretending we own land "as far
as the eye can see" and that our neighbors work for us amuses
the out-of-town guests. He told me he couldn't even comprehend
my mother her accent was so thick, and while I wanted to say fuck
you I just said how interesting, she travels all over and no one else
has ever had a problem.

Huck Caines guided Bernard Baruch's trips at Hobcaw
and told Grover Cleveland who missed an easy shot
he wasn't worth a damn. Today a Caines-carved mallard decoy
with a snakey neck fetches over $150,000 at auction.

I've got a real polite horse, said June.
He always lets me go over the fence first.

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At the Memphis Country Club your salad comes with a side salad of
canned fruit and another of frozen tomatoes and everything's covered
in cream cheese towers or mayonnaise florets. Scraped the smokehouse
floor for salt. Said I've never seen her house but my housekeeper taught
me about shortening in pie crust and we understand each other, I love
how she says "the mens." In the backwoods scared of being attacked
they lived in a pen. Don't care what they wear so long as it's fancy—
feathers, lace, beads. For Fetchit, Stepin, see Perry, Lincoln.

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The State With the Prettiest Name

William B. Hooker, Cattle King of Tampa, built
a second staircase for his second wife's children
so they all could ascend their own ways. Picking

blackberries won't save us from long-term
concerns, swapping the monocle for opera glasses
to gasp at the duchess's decolletage in a golden

box while downstage someone's dying, last year's
preserves staining jars in the pantry. I put on
the past as a record spins a golden thread

beat thin, sons and stepsons bumping shoulders
in the hallway of the mansion turned
Orange Grove Hotel, named for land made

plantable when Hooker fought the second
the third Seminole Wars, desiring he wrote
for his children to sit under their own vine

and fig tree, unmolested, and none to make
them afraid. A plaque by the courthouse annex
where the hotel stood and in Tallahassee

FSU fans do the tomahawk chop though Seminoles
preferred flint spears, bows and arrows flying
as Sam Cooke sings what you sing to me, Cupid

draw back your bow and stay with me
here in our rented apartment. Older arias
drift up the stairs and will keep drifting

long after I've plucked what facts I will
like stitches from an appliqué, like the two
guitar strings William B. Hooker bought in Sept.

1860, the year James Butterfield
boarded, before the war ended and he set
George Washington Johnson's poem for his

dead wife to music: When You and I
Were Young Maggie, when you and I grow old
but Leonard Warren collapsed before

Morir tremenda cosa, the first Mrs. Hooker
had cancer, Sam Cooke shot, Billy Bowlegs
King of the Everglades real name Halbutta Mico

Halpatter-Mico or Olactomico which mean
alligator chief, died in exile in Oklahoma
so Hooker could plant Triumph Grapefruits

and potatoes while his cattle grazed through
larger swathes of swamp with cracker cowboys
branded H with a heart around the H.

At least that's how I picture "Heart H brand"
Valentine's Day 2012 though it could've been
an H next to the heart or seared upon it

like Billy Bowlegs's image on a photographic
plate, taken once he'd seen Generals
Taylor Scott and Harney in wax at a

museum in New Orleans en route by force
to Arkansas, stopping to arrange
his daughter's marriage with a Yankee.

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Purlow Party

Enough mosquitoes clustered on the screen
that you don't know when it's night and sleep
for three days, can't tell the color
of your horse, wheelbarrows cart piles

of them away and cigar smoke staves off fever. I am of good stock, wrote
Marius, descended from men who occupied prominent and respectable
positions in their country. We roamed free as birds having
as playmates
the slave boys.

Poured molasses
on her ham and eggs.

Coats in winter
make a man weak.

My grandmother bounced my niece on her knee
singing Jump Jim Crow. The children

of the wilderness moan
for bread. Marius loved his wife

and bought her so many jewels you'd confuse her with an electric
light display at the St. Louis Exposition. Keep clocks on a gallop, pretend
your food is fancier than it is so it'll taste better.

Or worse. Could grow potatoes in their ears.
Left the jail open so the mob
could get him. Our shoes were made

from leather tanned on the farm but the cloth for our shirts came from Richmond.
The traveler said they danced as if they did not know they were in bondage.

Shirley Temple, the little militant, charms the whole plantation,
sings I feed my pigs molasses yams/They should be sweeter than
they really am.

Find a patch of forlorn corn
Rub two kernels on a knot
Bury those two kernels
The knot will disappear

We peel the meat/They give us skin.

He don't know my mind.

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Collecting scuppernongs that pooled on the sides of the river. Sang
Meet me dear little Lindy by the watermelon vine. He sat in a spare
and bottomless chair, his knees up by his chin, and in his hunger
for bacon and cornbread cared not. They named their dog Teddy
but after Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White
House they changed the dog's name. We wanted to smell magnolias
but we smelled sulfur. They say it quenches your thirst but I don't
intend to try it.


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