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Southern Styles

Cynthia Parker



Southern Styles is a select four poems from a larger collection about rural life in the South and the extreme cultural and socioeconomic contrasts that exist in its people.  As a southerner, it is often difficult for me to reconcile these extremes.  Exploring these extremes through poetry has helped me to better understand how the beauty of the South co-exists along with the violence and inequalities.  I use a sparse poetic form – short lines, few words – so that the important images do not get lost in a flood of language.  For me, the socioeconomic and cultural contrasts in the South jar against one another abruptly and this style allows that conflict to be the focus of the poems.   I hope that my poems will help readers view the South as if they are seeing a young African-American woman in tribal garb driving a minivan with a confederate flag bumper sticker – full of amazing contrasts that speak volumes, and perhaps not the same story to every person.




I.  Jagged Edge


Emerald-green glass,


from the neck of a bottle,

stained with tobacco juice,

edged in red clay –

This is my South.


White pillars

line the porch where belles

in bell-shaped dresses


to sip mint-y iced

drinks – struggling not to


stain their brow with one drop

of the sweat that runs

like a muddy river down

the broad back


in hard labor.


Breaking rocks, digging rows;

Breaking ground, digging graves.


Spanish moss and cypress knees

Oversee twisted growth.


II.  Drowning


Air so heavy it sticks to skin

Like cling wrap as

She peels the sticky

Peaches for dinner.


Hard to tell if

That pesky buzz is

Gnat, fly, or blood-sucker;

Singly sweetly in her ear.


The wood floor creeks

With the step-slide-step

Of a Southern waltz;

She twirls in her apron.


Screen door slams –

Home again; peck on

The cheek. Follow-up with

A slap – laundry’s not done.

Snoring beside her,

Smell of sweat drowns her.


III.  Fireflies


Evening slowly wraps

Her dusky cloak

On the day.


As she descends,

Tiny lights rise,


Flashing steadily,

They float skyward.

Children scurry


To capture them,

Peeking through chubby fingers


Before dropping them

Into clear glass jars,

Tiny holes poked


In metal lids to

Let in the night.



IV.   Pray for Rain


No rain –

Dusty, red road coughs

Clay clouds with every

Step, coating everything

That gets in the way.


Shoes, jeans, skin, hair –

All with a fine film

Of red powder that


For rain –


That runs in red rivers

On the road, cutting

Tracks through the dust

Until it slides to the

Ground becoming a


Red film that clings

To everything

As the ground shifts

And the dusty dwellers

pray –  Stop.



About the Author


Cynthia ParkerCynthia Parker

Hometown, State: Columbia, SC
Academic Year: Senior
Major, Minor: English – writing concentration, Anthropology

Once I obtain my bachelor’s degree, I plan to pursue my Masters in English.

Growing up in the southern U.S., I often find myself intellectually and emotionally at odds as I attempt to reconcile the tensions that occur between the various cultural and socio-economic groups that co-exist in the area. I have always been fascinated by people – how they think, how they act and react, and what influences their belief systems. Living in South Carolina, it only made sense to study the subjects around me. My studies have included reading and analyzing essays, prose, and poetry from other Southern authors and poets, along with exploring Southern life through firsthand experiences and informal interviews with southerners from all walks of life.

I would like to thank Dr. Tara Powell who inspired me, in part through her Southern Writers course, to take my informal southern studies and use them to create a formal exploration of the people, cultures, and natural beauty of the South. I am very grateful to her for taking the time during her leave from the University to review my work and offer her valued advice. I would not have submitted my work without her guidance.

I love the South – with its romanticism and beauty, as well as its grittiness and tenacity. It is this sharp contrast, both symbiotic and in conflict within the same moment, that continues to inspire me.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.