2 Flutter Sonnets: A Southern Gothic Fever Dream by Kristin Garth

flutter southern gothic fever dream

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.

Author’s note:

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.