Ghost puffs of cotton flutter next to these old plantation mansions with their overseeing verandas that wrap around and beyond my sight out here in the white, the old South, which may be more black than it will ever admit. There is the indelible print from a heavy boot heel; the smell is leather and dirt and blood, steeping my skin like sun-ripening sweet tea. I see a rope weeping from a peach tree on this slow saunter down main street Appalachee. Every scene is a mess of nostalgia and Southern comfort, of folk and soul, simplicity and rhythm; yet also sorrow and bitterness, racism and hate, pain and fear, clay and blood. Suddenly these beautiful fields become impassable sorrows, no longer thriving with life but full of life absorbed, stolen. Lives, landscapes, and memories are very differently colored.
This is the geography of our little ol’ Georgia, our jazz-and-bluegrass Georgia, our yes’m-yessir Georgia, our collards-and-watermelon Georgia; our ten-lashes-to-twenty-five-to-life-for-negritude Georgia, our ‘whites-only’ Georgia, our peach-trees-planted-and-Peachtrees-paved-by-black-hands Georgia; our dirty-sweet, scary-beautiful, Harley-riding, coupe De’Ville driving, plantation-owning, project-thuggin, hootin’-and-hollerin’, hotter-than-two-hells, perfect-piece-of-shit Georgia.
It is part of our everyday experience of being here, and you think we do not know? Our terrain is bodied by history’s slow-moving ghosts, and we pass through them with a tired grimace. We confront, we confront, we know, we know. We learn to know we cannot escape. This is the substance of humidity that swells our bodies and buildings, our pores, mortar, and joints with a gristly slip. It is the red in the clay, the kudzu taking over. We must try hard to fight and accept, to love and regret: to pare away, but not remove it from the landscape. It must remain always in view like the threat of unsweet tea. It will always define something about this place and we must know that. It is a troubling visuality, a schizophrenic horizon, a series of mixed metaphors, and yet, everyday, part of our living.