Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.

Credit


Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Hudgins. Used by permission of the author.

Author


Andrew Hudgins

Andrew Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1951 and educated at Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama.

Date Published: 2010-10-15

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/steppingstone