Renegade by Susan Muse

Susan Muse is the 1st place winner of Streetlight’s 2020 Poetry Contest

Photo of pea pods
Photo by Mikolaj Idziak on Unsplash

Peas are on.
The kitchen smells of fatback
and cornbread rising in a rush of heat from the stove,
unfurling around me like those green stalks in the south field
bent over with a want for picking.

Earlier I sat in the swing on the shaded porch
popping a mess of purple hull peas into a colander,
abandoning the shells haphazardly in a ripped-open bag
spread brown on my lap.
Each one, its freedom echoing
against the metal sides of the blue speckled bowl,
the hollow sound of a drum
like time ticking away.
In the monotony of shelling, the tips of my fingers became aubergine
like a fresh bruise.

And I thought of those slaves who first brought these peas
from Africa long ago,
in chains
their feet and hands raw and bleeding
turning their dark skin darker
into the color of scuppernongs or muscadine wine.
It’s a shared story, this one,
these tangled roots that bind us together
with generations before us,
the land we came to and then fought over, the old ways,
passed down like tradition
or a genetic flaw.

My eye catches that Confederate violet standing stalwart
among the weeds in the back.
A renegade, its tiny face open, a dark eye stares
unblinking
at the morning sun.


Susan Muse
Susan Muse has published in various literary magazines and anthologies, including Cold Mountain Review, The Miscellany, Pegasus, New Poets Review, Signet, Cairn Press, Images, The Writer’s Eye, and Poetry in Motion. Besides winning the Signet Poetry Award at Queens College, she was selected for Who’s Who in Poetry in American Colleges and Universities and inducted into Sigma Upsilon, an honorary fraternity for writers.

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