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Andrew Hudgins

(22 April 1951 -- / Killeen, Texas)

Steppingstone


Home (from Court Square Fountain—
where affluent ghosts still importune
a taciturn
slave to entertain
them with a slow barbarous tune
in his auctioned baritone—
to Hank Williams' headstone
atop a skeleton
loose in a pristine
white suit and bearing a pristine
white bible, to the black bloodstain
on Martin King's torn
white shirt and Jim Clark's baton,
which smashed black skulls to gelatin)
was home, at fifteen: brimstone
on Sunday morning, badminton
hot afternoons, and brimstone
again that night. Often,
as the preacher flailed the lectern,
the free grace I couldn't sustain
past lunch led to clandestine
speculation. Skeleton
and flesh, bone and protein
hold—or is it detain?—
my soul. Was my hometown
Montgomery's molten
sunlight or the internal nocturne
of my unformed soul? Was I torn
from time or was time torn
from me? Turn
on byzantine
turn, I entertain
possibilities still, and overturn
most. It's routine
now to call a hometown
a steppingstone—
and a greased, uncertain,
aleatory stone
at that. Metaphors attune
our ears to steppingstone,
as well a corner-, grind-, and millstone—
all obtain
and all also cartoon
history, which like a piston,
struck hard and often
that blood-dappled town
scrubbed with the acetone
of American inattention. Atone
me no atoning. We know the tune
and as we sing it, we attain
a slow, wanton,
and puritan
grace, grace can't contain.

Submitted: Friday, March 16, 2012

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