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Southern Exposure
by Gail Hamilton

Yankees we were
One western born, one Pennsylvania proud

Job transferred to the South with some initial trepidation
Unaccustomed to the heat, humidity and excess perspiration
Or ugly black Palmetto bugs, and lice too often shared.
For Tropical storms and fire ants we were totally unprepared.

But we were slowly seduced by jasmine scented nights
By pink Azalea trees, not bushes, and Rhododendron whites.
Magnolia blossoms and oak alley with moss Spanish dripping down
Stately plantations, and Louisiana houses with porches wrapping round
                       Complete with rocking chairs

We easily slipped into a slower cadence
A dialect so colorful and unique
Soon we were “ a fixin” and we “reckoned” quite a bit
And of course we said “Y’all” and “All Y’all” and “Bless your little heart.”

The transition to spicy southern food for us an easy slide
Jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo, and everything that’s fried.
Catfish, shrimp and all you can eat at Silvios ‘ on a Friday night
True southern hospitality and everyone’s so properly polite.
Always a “Miss” a “Mr” or a “Sister” in front of your given name
“Yes, Ma’am, “ “No Sir,” We knew we’d never be the same.

We loved the celebrations and the music
The festive Mardi Gras, the costumes and masks they wear
The parades and various Krewes and the jazz in Jackson Square.
Or when people packed the levee on the 4th of July
To watch the pyrotechnics lighting up the sky.
“Stars and Stripes Forever” by the local Symphonic Band
“Look away, Look away, way down south in Dixie Land.”

It was the God Fearing, Flag waving people who finally tipped the scale.
           Here, Family is everything, outsiders looking in.
           But if you stay long enough and pay your daily dues
They wrap their arms around your heart and squeeze till you succumb
Though northerners by birth, converted southerners we’ve become.

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