- I remember, and: New Shoes, and: Children Pulling Sweet Gum Saplings—Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, 1956, and: Plane Trip with My Sister, and: The Professor, Her Dead Grandmother, and the Student
- I remember
that first, threadbare year, the tearing away from home, my once long name, the way I make the coffee strong. And how I learn to say it—husband, learn to let that word take me to a garden where vines twine and coil around a pale tree, where the first violet bursts of the morning glories quiver and roil in birdsong and breeze. In frost, blooms rehearse their exit, draw closed fists against the bruise of wind. When vines become stiff belts, claim the pale tree, when the morning glories lose their flush, I remember my once long name, how to make the coffee strong. And this, too— the kingbird in the garden—how he sang, how he flew. [End Page 169]
- New Shoes
always came with the autumn— school buses, pine straw, and loafers amber as tree sap. How the ground stuck to our soles. How we lived to tramp and muck in our new school shoes.
One October, our grandfather sent us trudging down a fresh-rinsed road of Louisiana river dirt to gather loads in white buckets. He wanted the ground for the garden. We stuffed, then slopped home in our new shoes.
Our mother, aghast, wanted reasons for the shoes soaked red with the wet stew of a country road, for the shoes rubbed free of class, junked as any redneck’s front yard.
We didn’t know how the soil would show on everything, muddy our tongues with country drawl, keep sticking to the shoes we change out each season, our every step a smear, a trail pointing home. [End Page 170]
- Children Pulling Sweet Gum Saplings—Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, 1956
On a March Saturday, they board the sail-white farm truck and land
in the long, lanky waves of their Cajun grand-père’s pasture.
For hours, they yank the misbegotten bodies of sweet gum saplings
and imagine their classmates zipping blue bicycles down streets named Elm and Oak.
After an hour, their new hands sag with ripped skin and limp grips
while Grand-père’s hard fists bulge with veins and bouquets of star
shaped leaves. For hours, he clenches his tobacco-thick jaw without spitting out
a word of English. They grimace at trees that won’t turn loose
of the land and make the pile for burning, tossing every root they can wrench from the dirt. [End Page 171]
- Plane Trip with My Sister
As if we are due a crash, you start to sweat prayers, solicit angels to swarm the plane until you fling fear into my lap, set him free to fidget, fray my nerves. The vein in my temple throbs, lunges toward you. My daughter offers a warm palm into which you dip your cold, clenched fist. Some truth I’ve forgotten rises from the murky ditch of memory—I’m older, charged to watch out for you. But you are a gold butterfly flitting just beyond my reach. When I shout your name—silence. Not even the soft sigh of wings landing. How long I called, how long I waited. How strange it was to stand alone. [End Page 172]
- The Professor, Her Dead Grandmother, and the Student
From the podium, the professor stares at the boy who’s not buying it, the boy
who leans into her lecture and shoots back stares with his cannon-black eyes.
Determined, the professor plods toward his rigid questions, lets them lure
her answers into saw-briar thickets and quicksand swamps. At every dead end, she soothes the bruised responses,
then wonders, What to say now? Another few miles of this, and she will fumble
for the hidden dagger, the cold metallic sentence she will hurl at that smug smirk.
But her grandmother surprises her and slips...