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  • Kendall Hoeft

Southern Lady: Kendall Hoeft

Kendall Hoeft is a graduate of the University of Tampa’s M.F.A. program in Creative Writing and a writing professor at Florida International University. Her recent poetry can be found in Anti-Heroin Chic, Shade Tree and Driftwood Press.

As Kendall explains, these poems deal with the element of water and focus on the struggle between freedom and control through an examination of familial expectations and social norms. They also question cultural boundaries and racial lines, in pursuit of authenticity and deep self-acceptance.


Southern Lady My mother is an edifice. That fan, those jewels, these gloves parasitized by that sweet potato whitefly that is the South, that is Alabama.

You could’ve grown like Grandma Lily’s yellow verbena, fragrant and wild. How you could’ve climbed, holy to the sky.

Sometimes I think I see you blush. I want to reach out ready to catch your tears before you powder powder powder powder powder.

When you return from the ladies’ room, I wonder what parts of you are really here. Your little white forearms, bricks in some Antebellum dam.

Bathing My Father

I. Sanctus

I wash your skin to the tunes of Zeppelin— “Going to California,” “In the Light Ocean,” “Ten Years Gone.”

You shift under water, searching for stillness.

Pupils flash like lures under glassy flat corneas, refractions of light— waves under the surface.

I am a part of you; a piece of me swam inside you.

How you must have cleansed me, too, my tiny girl body faultless and pure, like a lamb without blemish or spot.

Tangled baby-hair spread out weightless, medusa in the water, your little lion-head.

I must have stared, floating in that deepest peace— that is water, that is Father.

When you spoke, “time is up” did I whine, squirming like an eel?

Or jump up like first Baptism— restored, euphoric, drunk on overflow, my cup runneth over ready

for the warm towel and your voice, this is my child, in whom I am well pleased.

II. Doxology

Now you lie here trusting.

As you look up, I reach to give you what you need. Holding your head, I soap up your white hair— fluffy like an owl puffy like Einstein.

When I rinse your scalp, you make little purring sounds.

Careful not to let soap enter your eyes, I pour slowly— let warm water fall over your wrinkled widow’s peak.

I notice the lit pillar candle— recurrent bits of bright twitching in oscillating ripples. Shivering feathers fluttering, “This moment is divine. This moment is linear, eternal, good.”

When I come back to the body, we are one.

Gathering the soaked sponge, I begin again

III. Benediction

I paint your parchment skin— strokes up your canvas back, down your long arms; arms always wrapped around a favorite Fender.

Your hand over that fretboard, fingertips vibrating emotion expressible only through the blues.

This intimacy, it kept you up at night.

Typology (of Water)

We grow thirsty. As city turns its back to water, we question the waves— searching for power to resurrect our hope.

The shoreline carries promise of suffocation, burial— that inevitable sinking.

To rise in this paradigm, we must situate sea level, shift. Complicate from complex morphologic to pure architecture.

When transcendent, consider coastal resilience.

Ask: What is water? Ask: Is it prone to rising?

I want to talk about that liquid urban fabric— a city of water conceived, raised to respond to the rain.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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