The map of me can’t be all hills & mountains even though i’ve been country all my life. The twang in my voice has moved downhill to the flatland a time or two. My taste buds have exiled themselves from fried green tomatoes & rhubarb for goat milk & pine nuts. Still i return to old ground time & again, a homing blackbird destined to return. I am plain brown bag, oak & twig, mud pies & gut-wrenching gospel in the throats of old tobacco brown men. When my spine crooks even further toward my mother, i will continue to crave the bulbous tang of wild shallots, the familiar game of oxtails & kraut boiling in a cast iron pot. I toe-dive in all the rivers seeking the whole of me, scout virtual african terrain sifting through ancestral memories, but still i’m called back home through hymns sung by stout black women in large hats & flowered dresses. You have to risk the briar bush to reach the sweet dark fruit & ain’t no country woman all church & piney woods. There is pluck & cayenne pepper. There is juke joint gyrations in the youngun-bearing girth of this belly & these supple hips. All roads lead me back across the waters of blood & breast milk, from ocean to river, to the lake, to the creek, to branch & stream, back to the sweet rain, to the cold water in the glass i drink when i thirst to know where i belong.

Crystal Wilkinson