For Billie/the South (which I long for).
When I moved to Boulder, Colorado a few years ago, for one reason or another I got really into my identity as a Southerner. And "got really into" means "came to terms with the fact that I am" as well as "probably got a little goofy with it all in the process." But it was an important process. Nowadays, my buddy Ryan asks me "So, are you the 'Southern writer' in the Workshop?" (Ryan's from Atlanta, but I think of him as being a Southerner nonetheless, because he's got a good heart and has worked hard to see the South in positive terms, despite all immediate Atlanta-ness around him when he was a kid, and also despite the fact that it's actually corrupt and bulldozes most things he cares about - which is a predicament we both share of course, urban-to-rural boy. Plus he has spent countless hours working to document the beauty of Panola Mountain, a place of sheer power. Atlanta both wants to laud and destroy Georgia, at least if you ask somebody firing synapses from rural Georgia. So, you see, dear reader, the "Southern-ness" of things can be hard to talk about easily.) And I think the answer is "no," but then again it's too early to tell. We shall see.
Most people, when they find out I'm from the South, say, "Really? Where's your accent, then?" as if I'd make that up. (And I know for a fact that Ryan gets that too.) But these are always people not from the South, who can't detect the delicate traces of my accent-in-hiding and who never knew what it was to have to cover up your way of speaking so people won't think you're a total idiot. 'Cause there is a bias. It is real. (Post)modern Southerners know that, and it's a damn shame. So, yeah, the accent is there, but it only comes out when it knows it's safe and/or coaxed out of hiding by Jack Daniels. Of course, my almost accent-less way of speaking has become the norm for me, as a result. And that's a shame too. Or, rather, it is what it is.
One way or another, I can trace my Southern identity to Ireland (as many Anglo Southerners can), which has pretty much been kicked around by the colonial oppressor since Whitey first decided to try its hand at Ye Olde Invasion and Conquest. So, basically, I'm hard-wired genetically to see myself as protector of all good things that are targeted for destruction. Especially ancient things. And ancient ways. Forever an anachronism, I see power-hunger and greed wherever I go. I see it in the world and sneer, weep. I see it in my own heart and shudder. My man Ryan...I may be more Southern than him, but he's more Irish than me...which is more than a fair shake. He also squares off, in lucidity, with his most fiendish nightmares. So this gardenia's for my man Ryan as well. Fighting the good fight. Shaking off the skinwalkers. Re-tying the Celtic knot and narrowing his gaze onto what's real. If there's a link from me to the Old Country in this life, it's got something to do with Ryan. And that's ethereal, I know. But he's my man.