Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What Dennis Said

Another Poem for Etta
June 2007

I never liked you, old woman
your froggy mouth snapping lipless
to catch my imperfections on your eager tongue

your righteous southern Methodist
intervention offered with that prissy little smirk
you thought was softening the whipcrack

of your god-almighty words
oh, you could charm the neighbors
with your clever liquid drawl

you weren’t born a redhead for no reason
in your long black gloves and feather comb
showing off that unbecoming flirt in you

your jowls quivered baby powder soft but you
were all bones and angles and faded sunbonnets
in the cornfields with your brother and the mule

gathering eggs from the hen house
chopping heads off squawking chickens
on the bloody stump with the long-handled axe

cranking buckets from the rock well
there were king snakes in the cistern
Nigras down the dirt road through the pines

baking early morning biscuits
in the wood stove after
a nose-holding trip to the two-seater

no spare flesh but sacrifice
you were a brittle woman
abandoned to raise three sons

intruding into the lives of others
taking your secret self to the grave
leaving me to mourn the little yellow finch

dead under the giant cedar
and the graceful curving staircase
to the slant-roofed garret rooms

in the old farmhouse
and the magnolia-scented
summers of Tennessee

only your granddaughter

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