Hung Down Her Head

“Your Gramma’s gonna die someday,”
she’d tell me. She’d always been dying,
since she was a girl–
her mother tried to smother her
with a pillow before walking out.
She pretended to die
to save herself, for
men to treat her meanly,
all of them,
one right after the other.

She’d sing me the song of Tom Dooley,
terrifying in her barrotone
as she rocked and
held me tighter than
I would have liked.
I miss her, but not like that–
not in that lamp light,
or with that breath,
not when she showed me
the scary realities
of oppressed
and depressed
old women
after hours.