Clifford Brooks III

She Waited While I Ran Late into Atlanta:
Sounds of Sadness, Madness, and My Haunted South

Looks like what drives me crazy

Don't have no effect on you--
But I'm gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.

― Langston Hughes, Selected Poems

(Chain-smoking, company kept only

in an endless banter - aloud, alone, no phone,
from North Georgia and toward a niche of neon – the city:
I am the haunted and unleashed into all of Atlanta.)

No river, stars witness men rush and shiver, nymphs left

in a meadow of shadows not swallowing but allowing
headlamps to cast their steel-white sight
farther, farther, and farther from country quiet,
running late, I am Sherman
again burning miles along an expanse of interstate.

Trees are torn up. The wild now notched

into the King and Queen’s luminous crowns
and kept beneath their concrete feet.
I am to meet and fall for all of love.
A lady set aside the overwhelming consensus
I could be crazy.
Soon her smile will split my dread,
however, never shall I forget
my demons are unleashed and well-fed.

Loud: the sound of a single spiritual,

I Shall Not Walk Alone,
seeps beneath my sinew
and into my wicked bones.
I am penniless.
I am the fatherless son.

I am embarrassed and naïve to believe

she is a saint before we meet,
and I am soon freed.
Nevertheless, she dismissed a list of my misdeeds
rumored by the rural rabble of our youth.
My last book of second chances isn’t written.
Tonight is a dreamy cause to caress her neck, unbitten
by my smitten teeth starved for giddy laughs,
yelps left in youth – reborn.
I am at the midpoint of my life,
but the right way is not lost.
Outside, the sidewalk, licked by fall
I whisper:
Up! Up, spring!

Rushing evening was abandoned by my act

of easing inside an eatery
I would never be
without her invitation, this occasion
a blessing or dark art of an occult:
I do not care.
No doubt do I dare lend it:
Splendid, she sits, candles lit, wine by her right hand.

She held me when I couldn’t

feel my grandfather’s ghost.
This season plays a lead role,
with her wound in it,
making sure my compassion keeps on.

Her, the girl: She, the all of it.

Nature has a knack
for the perfect words,
but I think these are close:
We are swimming deep, never treading water.
We are nowhere near the harsh shore.
I make it in letters,
this shorthand that she understands
well enough:
Yellow bloom! Soft pinks
and abrasive, flaring red!
Armatures invite danger.

The South is cool whether or not we mix

Colorado country with the dust we wear while wandering
the Delta, deep, deep beneath the Mason-Dixon.
Pen the hour, the pulse,
and the groan of growing
into a man made with no way to arrive on time,
loving a woman who always will be.
I will be her revenge. She will weave into me a steady nerve.
No one will argue
my kitten is cute and ahead of my curve.

A year later, somehow I’ve kept her,

and I find the whole of Ball Ground
a bastion of boyhood joy.
Every second I still feel a dead man’s toy.
This sincerest September night nods in agreement.
To stray is heresy. Kisses can be a kind of breakage,
and there is a calamity
in the opening of flowers.
Unlike Van Gogh’s smeared landscapes,
we are allowed contentment.
We count as ours all the calm.

Atlanta, sweet sugar plum,

be autumn for me.
Come, full moon, the goddess sight,
and let me make the night
a nest of my childhood, five dimes,
and an unclaimed kite.
I have a plan of letting Otis Redding
splinter the silence tucked
in the bed and threads of our Sunday best.
I want her to be better than me. From my soul’s weight be free.
Let my knitted brow smooth out upon her breast.

Bio: Clifford Brooks III is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience and the author of The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics and Athena Departs. 

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