20th Annual Reunion of Iconic Southern Photographsby James Thomas Miller
Outside Midnight, Mississippi, snake handlers arrive
every ten minutes in monochrome Chevy flare-sides
gunned up from strategic kudzu draws created, then
hid by the TVA in conjunction with Eastman-Kodak.
They park, slug DDT cans full of collards and salt pork
onto the picnic tables. The church sign reads: Repent—
Dirty Bibles Equal Dirty Lives. Their wives, all named Dot
or Pearl, circle to quilt patchwork, gossiping in tongues.
Round back, old fellers, overall pockets leafed with tobacco,
whittle a cypress porch for the sanctuary, talk of impending
rain in knees and how those politicians in the capital
aren’t worth hog lips. No escaping the weeping willows.
Fearful of God and buckshot, a convict weeds the cemetery,
kaiser blade pitching dog fennel between the cherub-crested
headstones of the stillborn and fevered, their eyes marbled
permanently west toward tea-water swamp where he knows
not even the bloodhounds will go. Oh my soul, he says,
Lord have mercy on Max Ernst, transistor radios and me.
As dew tresses the cotton, the Missionary Baptist choir sings
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men over and over like bad tradition.