Columns

Low Country by Laura Jean Moore

To understand what I have done these past few months, I would first have to take you with me to the wide sand beach of Tybee Island and ask you to sit in silence as the Atlantic tide rumbled with its spring jellyfish over the yellow-white sand. The black-faced seagulls would stand beside us and we would see families and couples and groups of old women and crowds of young men make from the open space their own rooms and private porches of close conversation. But we would remain silent, because what I have to tell you cannot be explained by mouths or reason. After an hour, we would walk across the hard pack through the deep dunes and then drive back to Savannah in my truck. I would laugh at the billboard of the local adult superstores, advertised in sincere smiles by a mother-daughter team every bit as respectable as First Baptist’s Sunday School brigade. We would park downtown and walk beneath the live oaks and Spanish moss and you would smell the fallen azaleas and find with me a cobbled street empty of driving cars. We would see the tourist trolleys pass on the cross streets but we would linger for a minute by the façade of an early row house and wonder at who had died there.

You would hear in my voice a settling into the easy vowels and soft consonants of a time before we knew each other. My slurring words would roll from tongue and lips as we talked about the darkness behind the beauty in this place, and how every wrought iron gate and laid brick was made by forced labor and the hands of grieved mothers and fathers and children, enslaved, denied, dead. We would walk through the Victorian and Craftsmen neighborhoods with sofas on porches and boarded windows and I would tell you about white men and women who told me to be afraid of the black faces and hands found there, and then we would pass block-by-block into the tidy lawns and homes maintained and manicured by those same hands. We would keep walking and wandering until we forgot where we parked and found ourselves on new tree-lined streets, unfamiliar, but at home.

It is beautiful, you might say. And if we knew each other well already, we would agree to this fact without assuming it to be a reason or excuse. Like rotten fruit, I would say, and you would understand I am not capable of simple enjoyments and forgive me for it. To understand why I left New York to live and work here, you would need to have seen the steel cage behind my city smiles. You would need to have asked me by a river, once, why I was sad. You would need to know the ways a person can enjoy what they do not like and then be selfish to survive. Maybe I am in love with you. Maybe we have known each other since before we met. Maybe the creeping magic of forgotten wishes and unexpected futures colors everything we see and do. Maybe you are here with me now, in secret, like a friend I met once in the woods when I was just learning to speak.

To understand what I have done these past few months, consider the daffodils who come first. I have never learned a logic better than the seasons. What good is the buried winter if not to surprise the ground in spring? This week I sat on the porch and looked past the broken screen into the yard. The hedges need trimming and the lawn needs mowing. The evening light fell slant through the tree limbs and I watched the neighbors greet each other with hello. The worries of other lives I have lived are stale and forgotten, like a box of crackers bought for a dinner party and never used. I will throw them out when I pack what else was left behind. For now I walk from room to room with echoing footfalls where rugs will someday lie. I buy groceries for the empty fridge. I iron workshirts and scour dishes. The floors have been swept. The bathroom has been cleaned. I do not own this house, but I live here now, and that is enough for it to feel like I belong. Maybe you will too. Maybe so.


Laura Jean Moore, Columnist
Laura Jean Moore, Columnist

Laura Jean Moore’s poetry, essays, and stories have been featured in VICE, [PANK], the EEEL, FLUX WEEKLY, ENTROPY, the Brooklyn Rail, Corium, the Cobalt Review, and Change Seven, where she is a monthly columnist. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Reed College. http://laurajeanmoore.com/

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