Beatrice

By LAURA HUNTER

POETRY SEMIFINALIST

She stared at my camera, a hard black box,
daring it to steal her soul.
Widowed long before my birth,
each fortnight brought her back.
My pass-around granny.

Clothes in a brown paper sack
at the foot of the bed—
two calico dresses,
a sackcloth apron, over-stretched sweater,
all faded and stained,
pantalets stitched with an open slit,
each with a pocket, left thigh.

I don’t recall
Mama ever saying her name.
“Jodie, tell your mother. . . . “
Always, always the same.

Brown snuff on her pillow.
“Make her sleep on the couch.”
“One week’s all and she’ll move on.
With Dot or Arahlee.”

Her favorites –
one to each house,
She flaunted her choice,
flinging a sting
if you queried her means.
“Me and you,” she’d say,
in the dim attic room.
“We’ll crochet us a shawl.”
Passing my sister by
as was her pattern.

“You don’t take a pick,” Mama,
stout in her resolve.
“Leave it be,” my daddy would beg.

At night we read, each to a page.
Slept between flannel,
curled tight as two baby squirrels.
Summers we slumbered
under heady scents—
Lobelia, privet hedge,
wild roses, white apple blossoms.

Sliced peaches in spring,
broke beans in July
and dropped shelled peas
plop, plop
into blue metal pans.

With her I was funny,
pardoned ere I did wrong.
Swing high, sing loud,
spit persimmon seeds across the room.
Catch smelly old fireflies.
Seal them up in a jar.
Shake them out dead.
Go on with our day.

But ours was not her place
nor was it mine to question.
She fell sick on the floor.
“Don’t let her die in my kitchen.”
They took her away
to “The Home”
where she died
while I fought against
algebraic equations.

Abstractions that
should make some sense.

Her stone etched out
with her husband’s first name
and the day they laid her under.
Chosen that way by her dearest daughter—
drunk on sweet, sweet bourbon
and rock hard guilt.

 

Laura Hunter, Educational Specialist, is a retired composition and literature instructor. She taught high school and college level classes at the University of Alabama. Following retirement, Hunter has been writing about vanishing Southern and Appalachian life in short stories, poetry and freelance articles. She has numerous awards and publications, a collection of short stories currently out for publication consideration as well as a novel, Beloved Mother, about the lives of three women in early 20th century Appalachia. Her upcoming publication is a short story “That Which Passes,” which will appear in Belles’ Letters II, published by Livingston Press.


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