365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor



Bone of my bone, spark of my flame,
I pushed you onto the earth one November night.
The watery moon grinned and the stars tilted back
As you first wailed at the world.
Our mother-line of witches died that night,
Even as a babe you winced at the sky.
And as your body grew, your spirit stayed opal-pale.
No spell, dance, chant could give you that biting heat.
Torn nylons covered skinned knees,
And martinis replaced blankets and thumbs.
You grew to live as you soared through the night sky --
Knuckles white, tight eyes, longing hard for the ground.

That idiot you call a mate --
Can I blame him for keeping you?
He knows he's far beneath you --
What a trophy you must be!
An exotic prey snared by hybrid roses and a Christian vow.
Samantha, can you feel the earth throb
Under you vinyl ivy?
Can you taste its hairy smell
In your potting soil and grass?
Can you say you crave a mortal who lets you
Be only half a soul?
And what kind of witch lets a moral rule her art?

Rarer than hens' teeth is a mother's approval,
Yet how could I still love you and say,
"Yes, that is enough.
"Yes, that is all you'll ever be"?
It is a mother's duty to wait, and
Like a death I'll bide my time
Till you break from this captivity and
Become the dancing child.
And you'll break your pretty dishes and
Pots and vases and vows.
How beautiful you'll be, Samantha, my light,
As you blaze across the sky!

The Charleston Men

The Charleston men wear white, starched shirts
And are cologned prizes to be won.
Their polished, public lives never reflect muss or fuss
Except perhaps a spilt drink or a messy divorce.
They chat of what is new and said to be cultured.
They buy their scotch and navy blues,
Their Cherokees and novels and their women
Warmed brunches and Mt. Pleasant homes.
They buy their politicians and safe adventures
And risk nothing.

The Charleston men love their women and Dixie
With possessive, abstract cold.
And little fools can believe that their piazzas will be warm
And that love is a gilded china pattern
And never-going-hungry-again,

The Charleston men wear clean, clean shirts
And never soil a monogrammed thread.


When I was a boy, Dad brought home
A she-wolf, dead, from a neighbor's ranch.
Caught in barbed wire, she had died of thirst
Or maybe just loss of hope.
Her eyes were still wild, though;
Those wires had not twisted out that pulse.
My Sam's eyes are like that tonight.
On nights like these I could almost fear her.

She'll sit there in the fenced-in yard for hours
As still and white as the statues she erected among the roses.
She'll gaze at the moon trancelike and dull.
I make myself another scotch, smoke a Salem,
And put the children to bed.

Tabitha will ask, "Where is Mommy?"
Her little witch-eyes shame me.
I want to shake her and tell her
I did nothing wrong but expect a good woman
To act as she should.
And how happy we would be if Mommy would behave!
I put out my daughter's light, but the moon shines through
The curtained panes.
"You're mine too," I want to say.
It's only a thought, but implicit, I believe.
Already so much runs between us both.

Downstairs Sam is still searching the sky.
I think I should put a sweater over her shoulders,
But I know better.
Some women, like dying wolves, are better left alone.

Julie Ann Bowling teaches sophmore English at Walterboro High School. She recently finished her first screenplay, and will complete her M.A. degree at The Citadel this winter.

© Copyright by POINT, 1997
Last modified 5/13/97