Poem of the Week | June 30, 2014
Hali Fuailelagi Sofala: "Color Purple Kids of Putnam County"
This week we offer a new poem by Hali Fuailelagi Sofala. Sofala is a Samoan American poet and teacher originally from Eatonton, Georgia. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is currently a PhD student in English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In addition to teaching and writing, she also serves as an Associate with the African Poetry Book Fund and is the former Book Prize Coordinator for Prairie Schooner. Sofala’s work appears most recently in CALYX Journal, Juked, Arcadia Literary Journal, New Madrid, and Moon City Review. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband and their adorable pup, Tortuga.
Last October my husband’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away, and we found ourselves making an 18 hour journey from Nebraska to Georgia with little more than 24-hour notice, leaving out at 11am on a Friday and driving through the night. We spent over an hour out running a thunderstorm that pummeled our car with rain and hail, witnessed a girl thrown out of a moving car at a 2am gas station stop, and pulled off the highway in my hometown of Eatonton, GA just as the sun was coming up. For me, the exhaustion of the drive seemed to give way to the warm relief of being home. All the stresses and uncertainties of what was behind us and what was yet to come fell away and I remember looking out the car window as we passed my childhood haunts and my history in that place flooded back to me. I knew at that moment that my wandering was over and that my years of living outside of Georgia had finally found its expiration date. Up until that point I had been a Southerner in self-imposed exile, living in the Midwest, hiding my Southern drawl, and searching for a place to call home through my poetry.
This poem comes out of that experience, that realization. It is my way of grappling with my past in a place that has not always accepted who I am or validated my claim to the land. The South is such a divisive place, both below the Mason Dixon Line and beyond it, but when I focused on the small patch of Georgia clay where I grew up, where my Dad taught me drive, where my childhood best friend is buried, where I first learned my love of literature, and where my family still lives to this day, I understood that I had finally found home and that I was finally ready to claim it as my own.
Color Purple Kids of Putnam County
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