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by Juliana Gray

NELLE 2 | 2019

Say it to rhyme with “can’t stand to lose ya,” the ugly town
with a pretty name, Alabama’s Andalusia.

Find it in the Wiregrass, poor and parched, a blot
on the maps of three Southern states, covering Andalusia.

Aristida stricta, wiregrass, can only thrive
when regularly burned by summer fires in Andalusia.

The locals tell of skunk apes and wampus cats
lurking within piney woods and scrub near Andalusia.

Maimed cattle, claw-scribbled pine bark, methane stench.
Imagine the monsters walking free in Andalusia.

At my grandmother’s house, there were horses, cows,
and a collie named Cokie who tried to herd me in Andalusia.

A vase of seashells painted pink and glued to wire stems
captivated me in her parlor in Andalusia.

I wasn’t allowed to play in that room, to climb the velvet sofa—
but oh, the shells! Such perfect roses in Andalusia!

They burned, those roses, and did not grow again
after her husband torched the house in Andalusia.

That was the first time she tried to leave him.
Arson is one way to bring a wife home to Andalusia.

The second time, she fled the double-wide they’d raised
upon the scorched foundation in Andalusia.

He killed her, shot the neighbors who sheltered her,
then calmly turned himself in to the sheriff of Andalusia.

Sift gray ash for lacquered petals. Pluck shotgun shells
from bloodstained shag. Souvenirs of Andalusia.

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