Down South To Home
Way down south
They have this thing
It grows on trees and bushes
And in big truck patch gardens
People tell me
At one time,
It even came attached to babies
Right outta the womb
But I can’t find nobody now
To corroborate that
So I just keep it filed away in my head.
Too many damned fools
Running loose in the world now,
You can’t believe nothing you hear
And very little of what you see
So you got to be careful
Or you’ll get run over by a lie.
My mama was sixteen
Her mama, twenty-nine
When I was born
(We all just kinda grew up together)
Them and me
Not a man in the family
And not a one of us with no daddy.
One day Mama run off
With a peddler fella
Who sold shoes and liniment
Out of the back of his car
A shiny eyed, nice looking man from up North
Who talked a good tale and charmed all us ladies
Just like a snake with a bird.
That left her mama
And me, with no mama
Alone in the world with nothing to do
But cry in our pillows and keep us a look-out
For red dust to come flying behind a big car
Hopefully, finally, bringing her back.
I waited many a year
For that day to come
And it never did while I was a kid,
The only thing that did happen
Was another bad thing
And I don’t really know how to talk about that,
So I won’t.
When I was going on fifteen
I thought about leaving, myself
So I packed up the only things
Mama ever gave me
Which was a porcelain-faced doll
And a bunch of old clothes
And me and that doll and my dreams hit the road.
About twenty miles outside
The hills and the hollers
Where I grew to be fourteen and a little past that,
A man in a pick-up asked if I wanted a ride
And I said “Yessir.”
(I was awfully tired)
And I climbed in to his grin and his un-welcomed stare.
Two miles down the road
He pulled into some trees,
Turned off the motor,
Handed me a Grapette,
And a big pack of peanuts out of a bag
And sat there and watched me
Until I began to feel sick.
“What’s a purty little thing
Like you doing here by yourself?”
He asked, throwing my empty out of the truck
I clutched my knapsack close to my chest,
And said I reckoned I was on vacation
And that I reckoned he ought to be starting the truck
And that I reckoned he needed to move his old hand!
“I got a knife.” I told him
And he just grinned wider and leaned in real close
“Well, I betcha you do, honey
But you know what?
I bet I can take that knife from you
And cut your pretty throat with it!”
And at that, I jumped out of that truck and I ran.
He chased me for nearly a mile, I think
Till I got so tired I couldn’t run
He’d pull up beside me and then pull off
Then he’d come up behind me and then stop in front
And I was so scared, I was about to cry
When I saw a State Trooper car come round the bend
And the man in the truck high-tailed it fast as a cat.
I ran off in the bushes till the Trooper drove by
Then I ran out of the bushes and up to the road
But I was too careless and I dropped my stuff
And my little doll fell, her head shattering like glass,
My only companion for many long years,
Her little white face,
Broken there on the ground.
“Shit!!!!!!!!!!!” I wailed
And began to cry
“Now, I ain’t got nobody and nothing to love!”
And I just grabbed the rest of my stuff
And walked away feeling like I was dead inside,
With big dirty tears streaming all down my face
Not knowing where in God’s name, I was going to go.
Why did I just tell you all of that?
I said all of that just to say this,
I walked all the way clear up North after that
Walked into Detroit and then on to Canada
All over Antarctica, no, it wasn’t Antarctica,
One of them other cold places
That starts with an A.
And when I got past grown
And was too tired to walk,
I started dreaming about going back home
Seeing my mama and going back home
Not that she’d be there,
But I sure wanted to see her,
And get out of the North and head on down South.
The only thing was,
No one could tell me how to get there
Everybody I asked said their compass was broke
And that nobody, nobody, went down South anymore
And that they didn’t rightly think that it existed no more
(Plus, they all want to know why I want to go
To a place that is hotter-n-hell.)
“Cause that’s where love lives!” I always tell ‘em
But I can’t explain what I mean
And they don’t know what love is anyway,
They were born in the cold, so I shut my mouth
And keep right on dreaming that I’m driving down
That long reddish road full of hot reddish dust
Back to the only home that I’ve ever known.
Back to the tar paper shack in the hills,
Where the ghosts of my mama
And her mama are waiting
And that poor little baby
That my Mama brought home
And that poor little baby that I birthed all alone
All of them, ghosts, waiting for me to come home.
Down South to home.