2 Flutter Sonnets: A Southern Gothic Fever Dream by Kristin Garth
Family Is A Bitter Tree
A bitter birth, beginning, basketry,
towhead twins swinging, lemon tree, arms
entangled, raging desperately
until their plucking, yellow blossoms, charmed
abandoned, humidity, unharmed. Cast-
offs, aching branches, acrid breeze, bulbous,
with sour fecundity. He slices fast
the fraying ropes, blue-sky-daytime-gibbous
moonbeam-bewitched hopes. Basket carried to
a Tester bed, unbelieved, aggrieved where
she rests a sweaty head. The mother who
conceived them out of wicker, bluster, air,
she will never be, even, memory,
their only family a bitter tree.
A Conversation With a Grave
The marble-covered girl who saved two more
abandoned no one sees, your cradle rocked
in lemon trees. Her body never bore
a child, expired adolescence, hot, pocked
compiled with thought – a universe her brain
contained, a genealogy she composed
of pain. Your basket, babies, the twain
rescued by a dying girl reposed
inside a quilt. Replenish gardenias
when they will wilt and gratitude, with vows
renewed, by you, to an etched stone Venus
beside a name who claimed you, bitter boughs.
You walk each week towards the one who saved
to have a conversation with a grave.
“Family Is A Bitter Tree” and “Conversation With A Grave” are both from my new manuscript Flutter, a southern gothic fever dream.
The manuscript is literally a fever dream of sonnets of a teenage girl, Sylvia Dandridge, dying of scarlet fever in 1883. She imagines quite a world of magic and menace on her parent’s estate of Longleaf, where they live in the panhandle of Florida post Reconstruction after the Civil War.
She has many fevers and dreams, hallucinations of her fears and aspects of life she will never experience – like childbirth, romance. Her imagination is so powerful that this world is very rich and alive.
This is a story of the celebration of imagination and how it can transport and outlast mortality.