James Lineberger
V3:E9 September, 2001


Today I made up my mind finally I was going to do it
walk up to the square
and read my poems out loud out there
under the old clock
at First Charter at the very center of town
where everything began
back in the seventeen hundreds, along the wagon road
filled with traffic bearing
salt and tobacco and rice all the way up
from Atlanta
and Birmingham what better place than here
to offer seed and feed to
the multitudes of blacks and Mexicans who
still come into town on Saturdays
when everybody else is off at the new mall by the speedway
where Bass Pro itself is bigger
than grandma's farm used to be before they cut
it up into a trailer park
but downtown is still downtown no matter what,
I mean
the libery is a block up one side of the square and the old courthouse
two blocks the other way
down near St James Lutheran which is just about
as old
if you count the original building that burnt down
and if you go west
you can still see where the railway depot
was located where they built
a cotton mill in its place on the street that used to be named Depot Street
till they renamed it Cabarrus for some stupid
generic reason
that they felt wouldn't confuse anybody, so the history was in place,
I thought,
and so this was where I wanted to take up the challenge
not in some cool coffeehouse with
air conditioning and a whispering overhead fan
locked up with a bunch of others like it was a band of brothers
but here, all alone, under God's own sun
tee shirt wet with sweat and my glasses filmed over from the humidity
on the very morning
that the Daughters of the American Revolution
come marching up Union Street to place their annual wreath at the foot
of the Minute Man statue,
talking history here, talking tradition, I said, but not too loud at first,
mumbling the words to myself
as I set up my podium and cleared my throat and lit out
on the first two minutes of "How To Get Laid,"
an early work, but one I judged to be appropriate on this day
to revere our hallowed dead
and let freedom ring, but I blew the opening,
not projecting my voice to the back rows the way they taught us
in drama class, and truth is
it was the worst case of stage fright
I ever had, even if
the only audience at that point was the snare drummer
at the tail end of the marchers
as their column halted at the monument up the street across from the libery,
where the mayor and the city council
waited on foldaway chairs under a funeral home canopy
for Mrs. Fitzhugh Hastings Lovett
to read her own
poem about killing off the redcoats and saving our beloved country
from taxation and tyranny
so we could do that to ourselves and for ourselves
with liberty and justice for all except
the monsters
on death row and the ones that try to make us close down Philip Morris
which is one of the largest taxpayers
in the entire state and has enabled every one of its workers
to have the SUV of his or her choice, without
any prejudice to women
or coloreds, and in conclusion she would just like to say God bless
our old north state forever thank you
which was the cue for the dignitaries to fold their chairs and cross the street
to the Hotel Concord to eat
barbecued chicken and all the fixings, leaving just me
and the snare drummer and the Minute Man
statue, with the sun starting to slide down toward Woolworth's
and two Mexicans
in a Citation in the middle of the square, flat on empty, and all of a sudden the steam
just kind of went out of things
and I felt like my whole entire life was a waste and wondered how
in the world I ever thought I could have pulled
off such a thing
in the first place or why or what did it mean to anybody else anyway, so I skipped most
of Part II of my poem and jumped down to the last stanza
and finally got to the end, where the guy who is supposed to be me says
to the girl that "she may as well
get one thing straight: you wouldn't even let Constance Ockleman
fuck you on a first date,"
staring the snare drummer right in the eye as I lowered the page and recited it
off the top of my head,
strong and clear and a little haunting too, I thought,
bringing back all the memories
of New York and Los Angeles and that hellmouth Minneapolis,
and maybe it wasn't half bad, after all, I thought, because the snare drummer
all of a sudden
took off that tall hat they wore back in the revolution
and shook loose this long blonde hair from
underneath and i could see it was a little girl, twelve, thirteen, maybe,
and she wiped away a tear with the back of her hand and said
mister that is so beautiful if you only knew
just last night my boyfriend said the world was too much with him
and he was going to do away with his self
unless something got better quick
so i had to do something so that was the only time ever that i have ever
let him put it in me for real
and first thing i did this morning when i got up
was call his house to see
if he was all right but his mama said he had gone over next door
to play basketball and that's what this
reminded me of, how if you wish for something long enough
and pray enough
God will answer your prayers and let you
really know what love is before you get old and have to give up all your dreams
and run off
to Spartanburg to get married

Location: Hellís Half Acre, North Carolina
Email: jdline@vnet.net

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