Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Burn to New

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Burn to New

Article excerpt

-for Virgil Suarez

Our new year doesn't start with the sweet smell

of white sugar in sparkly china bowls here,

but the sour, bagasse smell of Cannes brulee,

the cane trash burning from the stalks before harvest.

To ready the cane for grinding at the mill,

the old men ease themselves to the center of the field

with boards to stamp the stalks and torches for the blaze.

They clear what space they need and set the leaves

afire, returning to the edge of the old growth

where the young men wait with shotguns raised, aiming

for whatever's made its home in the cane, hoping

to fill their pots with rabbit, coon, and dove

for the fete that night, knowing the stew would run thin

each year without this burn. They blink their eyes

against the sting and shoot as true as they can.

The guns sound before the smoke rises

high enough for the women at the mill

to see it and ready the tables with white cloths. …

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