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.

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Grampie

In the garden, I am

the number one helper

granddaughter/grandson—

he’s the vegetable veteran,

hands blending into the soil.

My fingers clumsy

and pale, the onion bulb to

his roots. He follows,

instructing and inspecting

with as many “that a girls”

as beans in my bucket;

the weight driving the handle

deeper into my palm.

When he opens a pea pod,

with hands that will never be clean,

I don’t hesitate.

“Everyone eats dirt in their

lives. It’s good for you.”

z11