Charleston, South Carolina

 

A Love Letter to Charleston

What can I say to you,
city of my birth
and of my youth,
that can fully express
my unending,
my unalterable,
love for you.

You sit at the ocean’s edge
of everything,
a true port town
filled with
the beauty and wonder
of the world,
and yet you are
so purely yourself.

You are an ancient lady
dressed in white
and ready for the next turn
in a never ending
cotillion,
and you are bikini-clad girl
stretched on white sand
jamming to the latest bands
while updating
your snapchat
and instagram,
daring any beau
with an American pulse
to pass her by
without so much
as a glance.

Your scent is pluff mud
when the tide is low,
pungent and heavy
on the nose,
a ripened cheese
of marsh and sea and grass,
but then you also
wear the sophisticated scent
of the restaurants
and food trucks
and dives
where the world’s chefs gather
to reinvision
shrimp and grits,
she-crab soup,
or oysters cooked a thousand ways.

You are the sidewalk beggar
seeking another dollar
or another meal.

You are the threaded
Broad Street lawyer
donning a seersucker
and daring anyone
to argue
that Atticus Finch
is the epitome
of southern counsel.

You’re the tour guide
leading the glassy eyed
through your streets,
spinning tales of history
and some of your own fancy,
showing old homes
like they’re crime scenes.

Your heart is in the old city,
but you have stretched yourself
along the coast
and into the land
that you came
to call Carolina.
The rivers are your veins,
traveling inland,
creating new worlds
that bear names
that reflect all
that you are:
Summerville, Mt. Pleasant,
Monks Corner.

But all that’s best of you
is cradled by the sea,
a jewel,
carved by hurricane winds,
history’s rough touch,
and August heat.

You are the old women
selling baskets on Meeting
or young black boys
running up and down King
offering grass flowers
for only a dollar.

You are the afternoon joggers
bounding down streets
and through alleys,
determined and fit,
keeping pace
and finding your rhythm.

You are the graves
next to the churches,
old stones etched
with names long forgotten
and waiting for
another layer
of moss.

You are Italian trees,
French shutters,
and English gardens,
but mostly
you are the spirit
of America
itself,
a beautiful mixture
of the world
that refreshes
the palate
but also gives
that all-needed kick
to start a party
that will last
deep into the night.

You are all of these things
and so much more
to so many,
but to me,
my city by the sea,
my Holy City,
you are home.

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