“Goodbye Tuscaloosa”, a poem by Bruce Smith.

I read the poem in a 2014 issue of Five Points and I spent all morning being struck– and restruck– by it. It’s a beautiful paean to the time from 1998 to 2002 which Bruce spent in Tuscaloosa, “equidistant from William Faulkner, Otis Redding, and W.E.B. DuBois…. the axis of bourgeois ante-bellumism among the legacies of blood and blues.”

Italics are mine, things that spoke to me, people I’ve known or imagined, places I’ve tasted, plants I’ve touched. The familiar re-envisioned in the wave goodbye.

Lee Bains playing at Druid City Brewery last month.

Goodbye Rufus and Ditzy, Goodbye Don Dove, Goodbye Tim Early,
Goodbye Bebe Barefoot.
Goodbye to the Brooklyn Jew-boos and the boys from Des Moines
who wandered in their trail of tears to Tuscaloosa.
Goodbye to the Ur ovens of Woodrow’s. I loved the slaughtered hog,
the gloried grease, the human nature standing around,
standing around the fire.
Goodbye to the state flower, the shredded layer of rubber
the truckers call alligators.
Goodbye to my face in the window at night.
Goodbye to the songs I sang to you beginning in bright vocals
continuing through licking to the dark lies
ending in parlando where our burdens are put down.
Goodbye to those I could not understand and could not understand me.
When you said, “Troy” I heard, “Charlie.”
Goodbye All-American Storage and my birthright exchanged for a mess of
postage.
Goodbye rained-on cardboard box. Goodbye corrugation–chart of my heart.
Goodbye roach, you were my ontology.
Goodbye wind twisted in the Gulf and bitch slapped
and spun through Tupelo
and sent like the Po-lice to the homes of the poor.
Goodbye Druid City Car Wash whose spray was scrupulous to me at two
ayem,
whose mist was an exercise by St. Ignatius.
Goodbye to my face in the window at night.
Goodbye Blondel. Goodbye Aquanetta.
Goodbye, too, to the West Alabama Veterinary Clinic where I waited
with the sick furred thing with the owners of Wabbles,
L’l G’l, Dollbaby, Mrs. Pinkerton and Honey Bun
for yours is the pure devotion.
Goodbye to the Crimson Tide fans who worshipped the hypermasculine
for yours is the pure devotion.
Goodbye Mr. Vaughn of the 103rd bomber squadron, blind, kind, for no
white reason.
Goodbye to the machinery of the horizon and the fried foods of Ezel’s
Catfish Shack,
where I could taste my mud and slumber.
Goodbye crepe myrtle and the vertigo of the last hundred years
when I lived here (there) George Wallace died
the coach was fired and you were my alibi.
Goodbye three hours drive to M’fs. Goodbye elsewhere.
Goodbye red Camaro in a black bra. Goodbye hairdo as the Kabuki
of the South. Goodbye blues.
If there’s a labial among y’all, let it be heard now.
Goodbye Alfonso. Goodbye Tyrone. Goodbye Stella. Goodbye student
who prayed for me in my sin and affliction.
Goodbye freight train for yours was the pure devotion.
Goodbye nights of the fragrance I never named and days of noon, tongue,
and handgun.
Goodbye manners as tongue and handgun.
Goodbye unknown woman with a drink in her hand who burst through the tea olive
without spilling, walking in the back and out the front door.
I kiss your Jack and coke goodbye.
Goodbye to the bird saying Preacher, Preacher.
Goodbye to the three legged-dog who suckled the twins, Tusk and Lou,
who founded the town on snarl and hunger.
Goodbye to the dirty silence clarified. Here’s my reparation.
Here’s my face in the window at night.
Goodbye to the 4X4’s on lawns and the Pain Care Center.
I became an orphan like you here (there).
There was no shade for me under pin oak or magnolia.
Goodbye to the Black Orchid and your transvestites. Goodbye Miss
Mystery.
I kiss your post-op lips goodbye.
Goodbye and thanks for the Jesus.
Goodbye Time as a pure form of sensuous intuition. Goodbye Immanuel Kant
of Queen City Boulevard.
Goodbye Bible verse on the cash register receipt.
Goodbye pool hall, cabstand, pawnshop, and storm door company.
Goodbye He’s as Rude as a Yankee.
Goodbye red velvet cake and ersatz rue.
Goodbye Little Zion Tabernacle Church with your brush arbor
built from wood milled in the hollow
and your darker than blue.
Goodbye bathtub covered with a mattress during the tornado.
You took my form.
Goodbye tetchy, goodbye triflin’, goodbye mama love and moonpie.
Goodbye my little scuppernong.
Goodbye interlocutor with the lost. I kiss you reluctantly
as one kisses the forehead of the child
whose fever will kill.
Goodbye to the Enola Gay of race, and to Mr. Vaughan, who flew in you,
blind, kind for no white reason.
Thank you for the two-dollar bill.
Let me lie down between Rama Lama’s and Vinyl Solutions one last time.
Let me lie down between the porch and the battle reenactment,
the bombers and the lambs,
the bonfires and the birthplace of Sun Ra.

Wisteria growing through the tin shed cannot find me.
From now on the law against kudzu is lifted.
From now on I will be translated into this.
You were my Dollywood. I was your Judas.
Maybe some Tara will save me.
I will look back.
I will become cold and salted.
I will go up into the morning, sometimes.
I will be measured. I will be shattered.

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