This poem, in an earlier version, was at the top of the shortlist on The Guardian Poetry Workshop in May 2007. The challenge, written and judged by Daljit Nagra, was to write a dramatic monologue in which one speaker was talking to someone about someone else. My personal goal was inject within this poem a few common stereotypes, to make it a little bit ridiculous. This is the only poem I’ve written in dialect and it remains among my personal favorites, partly because of the great honor of being the first poet on the shortlist, but mostly because it was so much fun to write and is so much fun to read aloud. Enjoy!
Dancin’ with Anna Mae
I dunno. She’s sorta perty, I guess
but I reckon she bought that there dress
down at the Family Dollar. Why, just today
I heard her say she wished they had fittin’ rooms
there. Imagine! Fittin’ rooms at the Family Dollar!
Now don’t you go shakin’ yer head.
It aint like, I’d just expect a girl with brains
all bubblin’ onto her sleeve to buy better
sleeves is all, ‘n buy ’em somewhere dignified
like Wal-mart or the farm supply. Both them
stores got fittin’ rooms built right in! Naw, I won’t
ask her to dance. I did that three weeks back
at ole Bill’s barn party and she just stood there
lookin’ at me like I was stupid or somethin’, ‘n then
she just pranced right ‘cross the floor swishin’
her hips this way and that-like this. No, I aint
no fag! I’m just showin’ you how she was walkin’,
waltzin’ around in her Family Dollar skirt, thinkin’
she’s better ‘n the rest of us ‘cuz she gone off
to college ‘n stuff! You go on ahead and ask, then.
I’ll sit here ‘n watch her twirl those blond curls
’til they twist around yer soul and rip all the man
outta ya. Here in four weeks or a month, I’ll come
to yer door and ask ya to go huntin’ and you’ll say
“No, sir, I cain’t do that today. I got a date with Anna Mae
and I cain’t be missin’ no dinner with the darlin’. I’m meetin’
her parents t’night and I just couldn’t make it right again
if I skipped out to go huntin’, even if I brought a six point
home, cuz all that college and she still don’t know
the difference ‘tween an elk ‘n a deer, but I love her!
By golly, I love her, and I’ll do everythin’ she wants
cuz she’s got her claws all dug into my sleeves.”
‘N then, you’ll be gettin’ a job ‘n changin’ diapers,
skippin’ trips to the holler to go shoppin’,
shoppin’ down at the Family Dollar. O-ho-HO, yeah,
I’ll be jealous alright! Jealous of yer nine-to-five, bustin’
yer ass for nothin’ life! I’ll never understand why
a man’d give up his right to be a man ‘n spend his time
coddlin’ some little vixen pretendin’ to be a lady.
Naw, you go on ahead and ask her then. You’ll see
what I mean when she snuggles down night after night.
When the whole reason ya asked her to dance in the first place
prances in front of yer face every mornin’ while she’s makin’
coffee and eggs for yer breakfast, and kissin’ ya good-bye
before ya head off to work. When those green eyes beam
at a bundle of cheap flowers ya bring after some silly fight.
You go on and ask then. I’ll stand right here and watch
ya spin her ‘cross the floor, and I won’t think ’bout it a’tall,
I say. I got no need to object to you dancin’ with Anna Mae.
Audio forthcoming at a later date.