“I will fix this, if they let me,” says Will Harris of White Oak Pastures as he machetes through a briar-tangled bamboo thicket and scampers over a mossy boulder, plunging toward a ruined concrete-bordered public pool glossed with emerald slime and swarmed by dragonflies. For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this bottom-of-the-bluff park at the heart of Bluffton, a farming town on Georgia’s southwestern fringe, was a symbol of civic commonwealth for white settlers who staked claims after Andrew Jackson killed off and kicked out the Creek Indians in 1814.
The most obvious thing I have in common with Charles Wright is myopia. When we were children nearsightedness was rare enough to inspire playground humor—the kids who wore glasses were “Four Eyes” or “Mr. Magoo.” Wright, seventy-nine, still wears them and is invariably photographed behind them—his eyes, unlike his poetry, giving nothing away. But if any poet has looked harder and seen more of this world—seen it literally, tree by tree, bird by bird, moonrise by moonrise—and responded to it in verse more distinctive and indelible than Wright’s, I’m waiting to see the poetry that proves it.
A boy stood along the highway, his desperation made plain by the way he leaned into the oncoming traffic, flapping his arms while gripping a plastic water jug covered in dust. After the cars rushed past him, ignoring his calls for help, the boy spun around in defeat, his legs nearly buckling beneath him. The drivers knew who he was—or rather, what he was.
Cattle rustling, signature crime of the Old West, has returned to Texas. “These days, we got more rustlers than you can say grace over,” Ranger Wayne Goodman told me. “It used to be you didn’t catch a rustler that didn’t know cattle, or at least have some kind of agriculture in their background. Now, what with the drought, it doesn’t take much skill. Cows are so thirsty you can lead them into a trailer with just a bucket of water.”
Photographs from the Summer 2017 issue by Johanne Rahaman with an introduction by Sarah Stacke.
Built in the early 1940s, Blodgett Homes is a 654-unit public housing complex. According to Cherlise, who was born in 1982, the community there used to operate like a family-minded village. But a downward spiral began in 1960 when Interstate 95 was built—with the government’s full understanding of the disruption it would cause—on the complex’s doorstep, provoking many families to move.
A Points South profile from the Summer 2018 issue
There was no telling how long the stoplight at the base of the 8th Street hill would stay green when Grant Taylor began bombing toward it. He was in a low crouch, muscling his skateboard against the blacktop, popping ollies and carving tight S curves down the center stripe of one of midtown Atlanta’s steepest streets. With each push of his left leg, exponentially more asphalt roared past him.
A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.
I first heard Wesley Johnson’s name in 2008 while speaking with Carlotta Fleming (née Samuels) about her vocal group, Odyssey 5. After recording their lone LP, First Time Around, for Brunswick Records in 1974, she’d spent a few years in Italy singing in a group called Wess Machine, the namesake disco ensemble of a man named Wesley Johnson—a Winston-Salem native who’d been moving and shaking to some degree in Italy. I didn’t get tied up in the few details Fleming had to offer, so I was floored a decade later to encounter a box of Wesley Johnson LPs—all Italian pressings—in a Jamaican record shop. These beautiful, gatefold affairs revealed that Johnson was not some draft dodger or bail hopper, but a prolific expat whose overseas success story remained mostly unknown back home. In Winston-Salem, his sister Linda told me the best person to speak to about Wesley would be his best friend, Carl Ray Johnson, whom I knew as the drummer and primary songwriter for the Eliminators, another important local soul combo from the seventies. Luckily, I was already in touch with Carl.
A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.
Before she was Catwoman on the television show Batman in the 1960s, before she spoke out against the Vietnam War and was exiled for it, before her redemption and the sold-out shows with a multicultural international repertoire at Café Carlyle in New York City in the 1990s, she was simply Eartha Mae Keith, a little girl who never knew her daddy and whose mama had given her away before she was school-aged because she couldn’t afford to keep her.