Picture Frames and Uncle James
My family's the way it's always been.
Just thinner and less traditional, distinct
Voices slowly lowering to the ground.
The more they go the less I'm startled
By grinning faces posed in front
Of open caskets.
I remember the passing
As the living but my family
Pictures death in frames--
Biscuit gold with shades of popcorn white--
Colors as old as hills.
Uncle James will be going up next.
His banjoed fingers taking to their heels,
His beagles left to hunt at will.
Aunt Louise and Shuttle Challenger
If her fans aren't going Aunt Louise is huddling
in her storm cellar. No matter how much God
she has in her she's afraid of strong wind.
But if weather's fair, she's night-gowning
and flip-flopping her days with some porch
pampering and rocking chair-spells,
gages of how her light is spent.
Her glass full and empty of tea,
old dreamers drink, she says, God's sweet water.
And when her tongue's sufficiently sweet,
Tea taps her Jesus eye and she visions--
A shuttle rising like a burning biscuit
with a sick clock in her mouth.
Hands fast and slow like a wood bee working.
A voice fancier than her own, time introduces us to dus--
Something's Rising and Ain't the Rent
We coast with Aunt Ruth in Revelation
Since snakes wrapped all our heads,
Since she said, no room for Goody
Powder, only home-fashioned prayer.
We never know what storm God's
Sent next but when she says listen,
We listen all night if God sees fit.
Our meditative hands like a spread
Of homemade butter, a stout sweetness
Vexing devils from cousin to cousin
Out the church door where they soak up
The world like bread in water,
Their skin thirsty for other skin,
An affection for our end. Our bodies
Stood-up dates. Our souls light
As June bugs or heavy as beans.
Lot's Eldest Daughter
I'm Dad's wife too since Mama
Looked back for her doll collection,
Since lightening less than a mess of peas.
Dad's finding his own way to look
Back by mixing a dab of Mama
Everyday to our grits. Looking
Back we've learned is a pile of salt
Up to no good, too bitter to eat
And too blistering for holding on.
The world more moths than men.
My sister and me like weeds because
A whole lot of land still needs feet and hands.
Milk Jugs and Dad's Dealings of Hell
If we aren't putting the match to grounds,
I'm melting milk jugs.
Milk jugs right above a flame
Remain my burning bushes,
A melt a soft yellow blue like pollen
In chlorinated pool.
This is the Smith County conjure
Of Dad and his bounties of hell,
A place that testifies in the name
Of Mama's Harlequin books,
Kindles his voice to anger,
His teeth biting Old Testament tongue,
Belt seasoning my face.
Hell, he apologizes, gives him spells
Hot as chicken-coops
Even when our house Frigidiares,
Our bodies under quilts,
So heavy, we don't dare move.