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Friday, October 20, 2017

The Forest in Fall

She walks in dappled brown.
The trees, emboldened in
their bare embrace,
reach down, carress
her freckled frown
from their anchored
heights to touch her face

A pile of tiny bones,
ivory needles in forgotten
threads.  Small
among the roots and 
acorns put away,
peek out and shudder.
Hides itself away.

Circled round like fiddlefern,
tiny boxes -- vertebrae --
soft as chalk
and fragile whisper
under baby's breath,
"Don't leave."

She kneels, blinded by the dapples
darting through the trees
that sigh and shiver.
Enchanted by its size,
she lies beside it gently
Closes her eyes and smiles.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cherry Grove

Cherry Grove: A Ghost Tale

All around the old place,
the dead visit. The
day he opened up the trunk

of that sweetgum tree,
and before we saw the
horseshoe hanging inside,

something brushed against
my face. I heard a nickering
far away, and the smell of oiled

leather and candlewax.
A few days later Lloyd
found an anvil half

inside an oak tree, back
by the old barn. It was ten
feet up that tree, and

the color of storm clouds
when the air smells like metal
and electricity breaks

it right in two. They say
a shipwright lived
there once. I know.

I've heard him hammering.
That was before the rumor 
of the slave revolt across 

the road. Nineteen men killed, 
tortured, all for the sake 
of a child's tale. A child

named Obey. No excuses.
The crape myrtle we cleared from
the back forty bled claret-

colored sap, and stuck inside
one old, stubborn knot
was a skeleton key.

The silver lying all around,
tarnished forks and bone-
china plates. Papa said

she burnt that house a’purpose,
took the tram to the train
and left town. Nobody

Ever saw her again.
But to be frank, I don't
believe it.

I saw her walking in the fog
one morning, early. Picking bones,
rearranging bricks,

breaking twigs over and over.
She saw me too.
We've been talking

back and forth, she and I,
between the branches.

~ Elodie Pritchartt

Friday, October 6, 2017

More on South-West by a Yankee - Treatment of Slaves 1835

A description of Natchez, written in 1835 by Joseph Holt Ingraham.
Offered without comment:

"Many of the planters are northerners.  When they have conquered their prejudices, they become thorough, driving planters, generally giving themselves up to the pursuit more devotedly than the regular-bred planter.  Their treatment of the slaves is also far more rigid.

Northerners are entirely unaccustomed to their habits, which are perfectly understood and appreciated by southerners, who have been familiar with Africans from childhood; whom they have had for their nurses, play-fellows, and "bearers," and between whom and themselves a reciprocal and very natural attachment exists, which on the gentleman's part, involuntarily extends to the whole dingy race, exhibited in a kindly feeling and condescending familiarity, for which he receives gratitude in return.

On the part of the slave, this attachment is manifested by an affection and faithfulness which only cease with life.  Of this state of feeling, which a southern life and education can only give, the northerner knows nothing.  Inexperience leads him to hold the reins of government over his novel subjects with an unsparing severity, which the native ruler of the domestic colonies finds wholly unnecessary.

The slave always prefers a southern master, because he knows that he will be understood by him.  His kindly feelings toward and sympathies with slaves as such, are as honourable to his heart as gratifying to the subjects of them. He treats with suitable allowance those peculiarities of their race, which the unpracticed northerner will construe into idleness, obstinacy, laziness, revenge, or hatred.

There is another cause for their difference of treatment to their slaves.  The southerner, habituated to their presence, never fears them, and laughs at the idea.  It is the reverse with the northerner:  he fears them, and hopes to intimidate them by severity."

Related posts:

Southwest by a Yankee

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cocodrie Bayou

I drive through miles
of cotton fields.
White tufts erupt
from bolls
like butterflies
from cocoons.

The Louisiana
delta spreads out,
offers herself
like a lover
with secrets.

She sings primitive
salutations to the sun,
gospels of slaves.

On one side, the fields;
on the other, dark, wooded swamp.

Palmettos punctuate the gloom.
Cypress and still water.

Mounds built by Indians
who weren't from India,
after all, remind me.

This place is ancient.

My father brought me hunting here.
His father brought him.
I miss them.

It seems so
long ago, but it is only an
instant, and I am
just passing through.

I am a storm in summer,
all rush and splash, bluster
and boom,
sudden but brief, leaving only
vapor when I'm gone.

Elodie Pritchartt

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fake News by Vernon Rust

Vernon Rust
There are writers, and then there are storytellers.  Vernon Rust KNOWS how to tell a story, and his memoire, Fake News is filled with them.  Good stories, and true:

"WHEN I WOKE UP IN HOSPITAL, I COULD'NT move my arms or legs.  Oh, I wasn't paralyzed or anything . . . I was in four point restraints flat to the bed on my back.

OBVIOUSLY a victim of mistaken this only happens to crazy people, and after all, I, Vernon Rust of mediocre and fleeting songwriter fame, was a lot of things...but insane?

Insane? Mentally incompetent? Honestly?

That's just CRAZY talk! (however, several Doctors and judges seemed convinced enough otherwise to keep me a month or so, ...just to make sure)"

When a book starts like that, I've just GOT to read on.  And I did, almost in one sitting.

I discovered Vernon on a friend's Facebook page.  He was telling one of his impossibly good stories.  So I started following him, and was lucky enough to score a reader's copy of his book.  His stories are gritty and funny, and Rust makes no attempt to whitewash his past, which is punctuated with abusive fathers, illicit drugs, country music stars, rock-and-roll, creative genius, true love, financial highs and lows that are as high and as low as you can get.

Through it all, Rust maintains an optimism, a sense of humor and the wisdom that only one who has lived it all can have.  Rust is a country-music songwriter, and this book is a country-music masterpiece.  I recommend this book unreservedly.  Read it.  You’ll like it.  I promise. To purchase Fake News, go here.

To hear Vernon perform his songs, go here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Southwest by a Yankee

Painting: Circa 1835 Natchez on the Hill by James Tooley
So a couple of days ago, I typed "Natchez" into the search engine on eBay and came across a two-volume book written in 1835 called Southwest by a Yankee by Joseph Holt Ingraham. It's a description of New Orleans and Natchez, and it's really quite wonderful.
So I wrote my friend Mimi Miller, who heads the Historic Natchez Foundation and told her of my find. She replied that Joseph Holt Ingraham wrote her absolute favorite description of Natchez in that selfsame book.
I'll make a few blog posts as I'm reading along. I honestly think that the closest thing to immortality is in writing your thoughts and leaving those behind. I feel as though I'm inside the writer's experience. It's wonderful. A trip through space and time.

So, for my first share, I give you Ingraham's observations of fellow travelers on a steamboat headed from New Orleans to Natchez.  He was talking about con men, who cruised the river, never on the same boat, lest they be recognized.  Then his attention was drawn to a pious woman:

  "Even the sanctity of the Sabbath is no check to this amusement:  all day yesterday the tables were surrounded with players, at two of which they were dealing "faro;" at the third playing "brag."  And this was on the Sabbath!  Indeed the day was utterly disregarded by every individual on board.  Travelling is a sad demoralizer.  My fellow-passengers seemed to have adopted the sailors' maxim, "no Sunday off soundings."  Their religion was laid by for shore use.  One good, clever-looking old lady, was busily engaged all the morning hemming a handkerchief; when someone remarked near her, "This time last Sunday we made the Balize."

"______ Sunday!  to-day Sunday!" she exclaimed, in the utmost consternation, "Is to-day Sunday, sir?"

"It is, indeed, madam."

"Oh, me!  What a wicked sinner I am!  O dear, that I should sew on Sunday!" ---- and away she tottered to her state-room, amidst the pitiless laughter of the passengers, with both hands elevated in horror and ejaculating,  "Oh, me!  What a wicked sinner!  How could I forget!"

All I can say is I LOVE it!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Time Enough

At your cousin's wedding
your mother and her sisters
talked of husbands no longer there.
Their eyes whispered,

"Do not be so cautious,
for even love that lasts
is lost."

They wore bangles
bought by men
they thought they would know
dresses made of silk
they would trade for one last

A diamond for a touch,
for one warm breath upon a face
lined by time.

A thousand recollections
floating in a champagne stem,
held in trembling hands
that once touched
skin and lips and
never thought about

Let us love, you and I,
while we have time
and life and each other,
and drink a toast
to remember.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Unbearable Happiness

Unbearable Happiness
So here we are, all cozy warm
and wrapped in secret dread
that this might work
and now instead
of rejection's shiny hook
on which to hang our failed
potential we must face
the possibility that this
isn't what we wanted, after all.
Happiness, that angry bear
stomps down the hall to maul
our expectations, fling our
sorry asses out the door
and make us look at what
we've done and haven't done before.
It's not too late to fuck this up
if angst is what you crave.
Just save yourself and run.
The bear has only just begun
to tear your shattered life.
The wives who left you
crying on the floor can
stay, replay your failures one by one
and give you what you need.
Just say the word, I'll bleed,
but tell me now before
I've bled too much. My life
is such a clean, blank page.
Come help me fill it, if you want.
I'm here; I'm near, but time
is running short.
And bears are wild things,
quick and fleet, can disappear
before you've glimpsed
them, hairy, hoary, clumsy, big
and scary like first days of school.
They learn to dance between
the aisles and listen for the bees,
delicate and fragile in their way.
Just say if this is what you want
and I will watch the bees.
The bear is yours today.

~ Elodie Pritchartt
13 Jan 08

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blues and Green

Blues and green

by Elodie Pritchartt

The wind blew through yesterday.
Rain beat the petals off
the flowers on the catalpa tree,
pasted them to the pavement like reminders
that nothing lasts forever.
It scrubbed the troubled air pure clean.
All it left was the scar from
the car that slammed into that tree on
New Year’s Eve.
Wind again today and rain.
The tin roof beats a bittersweet tattoo.
Still life through blue bottles
on the sill. Be still. Listen. The rain
sounds like a hush overhead.
Hear it? That’s fate passing by,
for now.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My Ship has Come In: a Tale of Tragedy and Comedy

I've got this friend, Liesl, whom I met in an online chatroom about 25 years ago.  It's amazing the friends one can make through that crazy thing called the internet.  But we've been friends for years and years and I'm awed and love her to death.

Liesl is kinda brilliant -- a former philosophy professor who started out as an assistant director in Los Angeles on Power Rangers.  Now she's in graduate school again, studying to be a therapist.  Yes, life is that weird.

Anyway, my friend Liesl occasionally gets into her cups and goes shopping online.  She calls it "tipsy shopping."  And she realizes she's been overdoing it a bit when she wakes up in the morning and realizes she's adopted an olive tree in Italy. Seriously.  That really happened.  I mean, I like olive oil as much as the next guy, but this is crazy!

So the other day, I sent her a message telling her I'd outdone her olive tree.  Here's what happened:

A few nights ago, I sent her the following message:

"Okay, so I've got you beat tipsy buying online."

"Oh? What happened?"

"I've got this thing for really beautiful model ships."

And I do.  I've always loved them.  In fact, I kinda like boy toys.  When I was a kid, I was dying for one of those little race-car sets.  What were they called?  Hot wheels?  A tool set would've been nice. But Santa never brought it.  Every year it was Barbie.  And Barbie was okay.  But I hated baby dolls. Then I discovered model trains and never asked for one, but admired them from afar.  I finally gave up on boy toys.

So anyway, I recently discovered this online estate-sale site: Everything But the House.  And I've gotten some really beautiful, cool items there.  Totally useless, but beautiful.  Case in point?  This birdcage:

Oh, be still my heart!   Came with the table and everything.  And it was a bargain.

Anyway, one night, I'm on the site, sitting around sipping on Crown Royal and I see the most beautiful model ship I've ever seen.  I've always admired model ships, but they're always clipper ships or the NiƱa or the Pinta or something.  This was a galleon.  I HAD to have it.  But I was outbid.  And I was bereft.

So I though, "Hmm....I wonder if I could find another one like it somewhere online."  I took a sip of my drink and Googled "model ships."  And, boy, did I find model ships!  You wouldn't believe the ships you can find out there.  Ancient Egyptian, Viking, Clippers, Pirates, Cruise Ships, et al.  Totally cool.

And I saw a photo of this beautiful Spanish Galleon called the San Felipe XI.  I took another sip and thought, "Gosh.  I wonder why they had so many ships named San Felipe."  This one was incredible. It was on a home-decor site called Houzz and was made by Old Modern Handicrafts, Inc.   It was made with mahogany and teak and rosewood and was simply gorgeous.  It was a limited edition. They'd only made five of them.  And there were only two left.

And it was on sale for about a third of the original asking price, which was still pretty steep, but I'd just made some rather big money and I was feeling kinda rich.  And I really, really wanted that boat. It would look perfect in the den on the table behind the sofa.  I took another sip.

Me to self:  You know?  I don't buy a lot of clothes.  Heck half my shoes come from WalMart.  I do splurge on dinners out now and then.   I really deserve this boat.  I can afford it and it's free shipping. Look at that rigging!  Look at the galley!  Check out that hull.  If I had that boat, my life would be complete.

I took another sip.  Wow.  Free shipping.  Wotthehell.  What could possibly go wrong?

So I bought it.

A few days later, I get an e-mail from Houzz:  Your order has shipped!

My first clue that something was amiss happened a few days later when I get a call from the shipping company:

"Ma'am, we're delivering an item you ordered from Houzz, and need to know if an 18-wheeler can get down your street."

"Gee," I thought.  "They must be one of those shipping companies that ships stuff along with other people's stuff when they move or something."

My street's pretty narrow and the power lines hang down pretty low.

"Um, I don't think so," I said.  They may have to park on Orleans Street and walk it down here."

"Ma'am, this package weighs 151 pounds."


Oh, my God.  What have I done?

"Well, I guess he'd better bring a dolly."

A little while later there's a knock at the door.  I open the door to a very sweaty, very winded, very pissed-off man with a HUGE box.

"Oh, my!  I had no idea it was this big," I stuttered.  "I don't know if I can keep this."

"Yeah, well, lady, you can take that up with the store.  This thing is danged heavy and I had to cart it all the way down here from Orleans Street.  Sign this.  I got to go."

I sheepishly signed the ticket and asked him to at least put it inside the house before he left.

Once he was gone, I raced to my computer and wrote to Houzz:

I received the following order today. I had no idea this boat was going to be this large. I thought it would fit on a parson's table, but it's clear it's much too big. I'd like to know if I can return it in exchange for a smaller model. I'm willing to pay the shipping for the return order.
I realize the mistake was my own, and would really appreciate it if you could help me out of this mess. Thanking you in advance, blah, blah, blah.

I figured it'd cost two- or three-hundred dollars to send it back, but it was just too big to keep.

So the next day, I get this nice response from Houzz:

Hi Elodie,

Thank you for reaching out to Houzz! We are sorry to hear the order did not work out, but are happy to assist with a return. We are working to obtain the necessary return information and will follow up as soon as possible with next steps.

Shew!  I really dodged a bullet!  Then a couple days later:

Hi Elodie,

I wanted to follow up with you in regards to your order.

We have made arrangements with our freight carrier for the return. They will contact you shortly to schedule a pickup. If you prefer to contact AGS to arrange please call (800) 645-8300 and reference your order number. Please note the cost of return shipping,$970.04, will be deducted from your final refund.

Oh, dear!  What to do???

In the meantime, Boyfriend wanted to know what the heck that HUGE box was in the hall.

"Oh, nothing.  I ordered something by mistake.  It's going back."

That night we went to dinner at Pearl Street Pasta.  My stomach was in knots.  

"Um, Boyfriend?  I've got something to confess.  I blurted out the whole sordid, silly tale.  I knew he'd never let me live this down.

"But I've come up with a solution," I added quickly.

"Oh, really," he smirked.  "What is it?"

"Well, I've given it a lot of thought and I've decided to donate it to Trinity School."

 It was my Alma Mater, and my parents had been instrumental in starting the school.  My dad built the building after it moved from Magnolia Hall, an antebellum mansion that needed to go back to its former glory.  

"That way, I can write it off my taxes as a charitable donation."

"Why don't you donate it to the Historic Natchez Foundation?"

"What do they want with a giant Spanish Galleon?" I countered.  "I think the school would rather have it."

"Well, Natchez was under Spanish rule for awhile," he said.  You should ask Mimi Miller (executive director of the Foundtion)."

Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River.  It has a colorful and varied history, having been under the flags of France, Spain, England and the United States.  The City just celebrated its tricentennial.

No sooner had he said it than Ron and Mimi Miller walked by with two out-of-town guests.  I reached out and grabbed Mimi's arm.  

"Mimi!  Hey!  Um, could I talk to you for a minute?"

It took quite awhile for her to stop laughing.  It WAS funny.  Tipsy shopping can, indeed, be dangerous.

I showed her pictures of the boat from the Houzz site.

"We'd love to have it," she said.

She walked over to her table in the corner and her guests.  In a few minutes there was garrulous laughter erupting from the corner.  I walked over to show them the email about $970 shipping fee.  Then I told them what I'd done.  Later, Mimi said one of her guests asked, "Is everybody in this town this much fun?"

Well, of course we are.  We're from Natchez.  We drink Crown Royal and go shopping on the internet.

The day they came over to relieve me of my galleon, Mimi told me they'd just brought it in from the truck and she settled down at her computer to check her email.  There waiting like destiny, itself, was an email from The Smithsonian Institution, asking if the Historic Natchez Foundation would host an exhibit on the history of waterways in Mississippi.

"I'm putting that boat smack dab in the middle of the exhibit," Mimi chortled.  They've found it a prominent place in the front office of the foundation among the books, papers, paintings and ephemera that make Natchez such a wonderful place.

I figured out later that San Felipe XI meant Extra Large, not the 11th.  But look at that picture of the receipt. I may have had a drink or two, but THAT was an honest mistake.  I just failed to read the specs.  And this boat is every bit as beautiful as promised.  In fact, I'm surprised it didn't cost MUCH, MUCH more than it did.  Houzz was courteous and prompt and the boat company was, as well.

To read the fascinating and tragic history of the San Felipe, go this article:  Ship's story revealed in 435-year-old wreckageYou won't be disappointed.

As for me?  I found another model boat on Everything But the House.  It's not the San Felipe, but it was only $15.  And it came with a boat in a bottle, too.  So there.  

Oh, and Liesl agrees:  I've outdone her in spades.

See below for pictures of Elodie's folly: