Tina Mozelle Braziel



So more will blossom beside the trailers next year,
the dahlia bulbs need to be dug and spread.

People here say they are going to the house
and drive back to their doublewides.

Home is made by repairing piers for lot rent.
Made by the cucumber and squash

that bridge well beyond their beds.
No one pays for muscadines, they’re for jelly.

Watch that sun-burnt kid. She dips paper boats in motor oil,
drops them in the lake to see them spin in ever-widening circles.

Dahlias swing, shovels dig their bulbs. Home is made
as the pressure cooker whistles through a singlewide.

Made under that throng of willow flies,
where piers hammer us to this drift of blossoms.



Why Grandma Mozelle took me trespassing
through half-built houses, I can’t be sure.

As if “because we can” was reason enough,
she often said nobody thinks of women and children
as thieves or vandals.

I caught her sometimes sliding a hand over a countertop,
pretending, perhaps, to wipe away crumbs.

Maybe she just wanted to read me
the house frames: the studs of entry and barrier.

Among their barred shadows, she asked
if I could picture a window seat instead of that extra closet
or this dining room open to kitchen and den.

I kept busy shuffling sawdust searching for the metal discs
that electricians punch from power boxes.

I didn’t grasp the value then of recognizing walls,
looking through them, seeing other ways that they could lay.

To me, the prize was naming and numbering,
first, those coin-sized blanks,
then later, homes I wished to claim.


To the Coosa River at Powell’s Hideaway Trailer Park

Come evening, all tilts towards you, light sifts down
until your waters hold more sheen than the sky.

Herons lift their backward knees along your banks
as egrets flock to festoon the pines.

Like an outboard whining its way across your slough,
then settling into an idle hum beside its pier, I linger,

wanting to hear your whisper hushing the trailers and me.
I long to stay and feel the boat’s wake kiss the fall-away shore.

Today I swam to the island, scratched between the horns of the goat
who baas his lonesomeness and again I was young and at home.

I walked beneath pines once whitened by so many birds,
their weight bent the boughs beyond buoyancy.

Tomorrow I drive cross country, making my way
to settle beside another river.

I hear its waters run north and cold, too cold for swimming.
Don’t hold on to me like a mother, don’t lay out this silken shine.

Let me go, but come with me, set my body atilt
with your sway each night. Can’t you shift like the egrets

who rearrange themselves from one branch to another,
each nearness shining as perfect as the last and the next?


A Clear View

Neighbors talked, saying “That Mozelle,
she is going to get her a house.”

Not quite “bless her heart,”
yet scant admiration for a woman

mixing mortar with her groom
the day after their wedding.

Brick withstands such huff and puff
at a divorcee marrying a brick mason

her daddy’s age, at a couple moving
into a half-built house three blocks from Main.

That was the 1950s. And now
I’m another Mozelle building a home

after wrecking his so we can live
like bears in the woods.

I hold panes in place,
while my husband secures their frames.

We’re raising a glass cabin
for its clear view on whatever

a neighbor may think
or decide to hurl our way.


Not Most

“Most women wouldn’t live without running water.”
A compliment, maybe backhanded, or a challenge.

Most likely a warning against giving up the ease
of a warm shower or a mirror’s sink.

But I’m not Eve walking away from garden and god
just to feel the sway between the good of having and the evil of not.

It’s beguiling though, the black racer I found
while trudging through our woods.

Startled, she slinked so lithe over fallen branch and leaf,
her swift glide seemed more blessing than curse.

I’ve given arms and legs for such deft swerves.


Tina Mozelle Braziel won the 2017 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Her collection, Known by Salt, will be published by Anhinga Press. Her chapbook, Rooted by Thirst, was published by Porkbelly Press in 2016. Her work has also appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Southern Humanities Review, Tampa Review, and other journals. She and her husband, novelist James Braziel, live and write in a glass cabin that they are building by hand on Hydrangea Ridge. 

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