the museum of americana

a literary review

My Son Points to a Confederate Flag and Asks What It Is – Poetry by Christopher Martin

Not far away, the Allatoonas: mountains red,
their bodies bleeding iron ore, their feet
washed by reservoir where monuments
declare the memories of men who died
fighting for Southern independence.
Nearer, cicadas’ trembling tymbals ring
like battle hymns, chorus within kudzu
that clings to a railroad embankment
rattling with burdens, the passage
of freight and time. Here, yellowing
walls of the meat-and-three, framed
old sack of cornmeal, train paintings,
the Texas and the General. Here,
a rusted crosscut saw bound to wall,
a tacky poster with a road sign
reading John 3:16, no U-turn,
a map of the Atlanta Campaign,
a full-size Confederate battle flag
hung over our table like a thief,
impenitent and cased in glass.

Woven within these images, as stained
with them as these walls with grease,
as stained as the ground of Allatoona Pass
once was with gore, we sip weak coffee,
wait for salt-cured ham, scrambled eggs,
redeye gravy, biscuits, a pancake for my son.
Learning how to speak, bright with words,
he finds the train paintings in short order,
points them out, tells us what they are.
Then the flag, for which he has no name,
no conception of that which it suggests:
What’s that? he says, and I want to mumble
something of heritage as haints murmur,
their riddles rising like steam from plates
borne by a waitress in short shorts, that I know
nothing, absolutely nothing, but fill my mouth,
chew the bread by which I cannot live alone.

~ ~ ~

Christopher Martin is the author of the poetry chapbook A Conference of Birds (New Native Press 2012). His poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Shambhala SunRuminate MagazineThrush Poetry Journal, DrafthorseStill: The JournalBuddhist Poetry Review, Adventum, Poecology, Town Creek PoetryLoose Change MagazineRevolution HousePale Ale Press, and the Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia, among other places. Chris is the founder and editor-in-chief of the online literary magazine Flycatcher and is a contributing editor at New Southerner, where he writes the monthly blog Kairos and Crisis. He is pursuing a Master of Arts in Professional Writing at Kennesaw State University and lives with his wife and their two young children in the northwest Georgia piedmont, between the Allatoona Range and Kennesaw Mountain. You can find him online at www.christopher-martin.net

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