Saturday, August 23, 2014

Place: No Place; Time: Any Time

This blog was once a place for poems—it was where I started to speak about the things I saw in the world. It gave me the courage to think I was good enough to be a poet. I am, but it’s all potential. It’s the same potential we all have; we are each languaged. For some reason God has me here now, in Raleigh. I’ll have two years to continue what Mobile, what God through DLM, started. And that’s just another two years toward naming the predicament of the soul. Percy, O’Connor, Montgomery—may they be brought to the Vision of God—began it, but not alone. They left signposts in this strange land. God used those to move my heart to Raleigh. He used them to make me a poet. So help me God.

And here begins my first letter to Mobile, to Alabama, to Honors.

A heart can wander to odd places, compelled by memory of a life it has not yet lived, and it can settle there and learn there and love there. Thus I am in North Carolina.  I never thought I was Southern prior to NC—meaning I wasn’t a farm boy, I never dipped Skoal, and my vehicle didn’t have a bed of any form. But that’s not all of the South. It’s in our language, it’s hesitating on the highway to let someone in, it’s building a fire on an 85 degree night just to scare the mosquitos thirsty for the pure sweet-tea sugar bubbling out of your skin. That doesn’t happen here. Not everyone understands the three types of door holding: pulling, push-and-lean, and push-and-step-through. And no matter how many times I say “mo-BEEL,” people will always correct me subtly with “MO-bile” or, at best “MO-beel.”

Very often either the Old South or God has come up in conversation. I’m not complaining. The second is glorious, and people are very accepting. The first is strange for my earlier statement: I never thought I was a Southerner. But Walker Percy was right. The South looks less and less like the South every day. And I think people feel that here, too. In some groaning beyond words, people pay a slight homage to the South when we talk. We all miss it. It is cornbread and sheets on the line and that overwhelming chicken litter smell thanks to all three neighbors. Not everyone knows that first hand, but they sense it in me. And it goes back to our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers. Even with the best human effort any man in the free world could muster, we still fell short before the Lord. We even fell short of our own ideals. And we all feel a loss in that.

Beyond the South, it feels weird not walking through a door, beating my chest, and shouting ,“Tantum e tenebris receptum constabit!” It feels weirder not staring straight into the eyes of Stonewall and saying, “A group of friends seeking the truth of things in love.” But it’s there. That hot iron has forever scorched the seal of Honors into the breast of every one it touched, both in class and beyond UM. And praise God that M walked that with me. She’s bears it, too. Now He has me here. And I have two years. I have two years and two hundred thousand to love, to show love, to enter darkness, to live and trust and learn and die. To suffer into truth. And to live again at the sound of the Word.

Only what is won from the darkness may stand.

Will Justice Drake