Latitude Adjustment

by Michelle Elvy

Down South was always home,

mint tea and my brother and me

skipping stones in the creek

out behind Papa's house,

while Patti knitted sweaters

for winters that never got too cold.


Now the world's on its head;

tea is dinner and Papa is dead.

Creek dry, house sold, and

my brother and me skipping

birthdays 'cause we feel old.


I bought a map and drove all over

but I still don't know

if I'll ever get used to

looking right and shifting left,

or finding the sun obliging us obliquely

as she squats low, old and tired,

to the North.


My birthday's tomorrow. Used to be

we'd suck crablegs and chug Rolling Rocks;

we were summer babies, Robbie and me.

Now I'm wearing extra socks

And wishing my ma were here

But I know she won't come:

she'd have to buy a new coat.


Down South now means August cold snap,

the forties roaring my wool cap

off my head. This island's my home now,

ol' Stewart sees to it

that I open my heart somehow

and throw my anchor down

and stay:

Kia Ora, as they say.


And I will: no one dragged me here,

sailed in on my own Pegasus

and fell in love with more wilderness

than I ever knew existed.

But on my birthday I'll drink

my usual bourbon and hear

the ice in glasses, tink-tink,

as I see my ma pour one more

Julep from her cracked pottery jug,

for me.


And I'll smell the mint and hear

Robbie's big man-laugh and wonder

why he moved to Canada.

And I'll feel

Papa's creekmud between my toes,

and I'll face east and dream

of going North.