Norma Gay Prewett
With some of August
caught in batting,
the pilled lump of pallet
smells the way she did.
Tobacco, woodsmoke, slippery shale
Each layer a generation, another summer.
Hot, hootowl, heartripping cry,
and then the whippoorwill.
Cottonbound, snapping beans on porch-swings
cracking rocks out of pockets in the hills
to show me “pretties.”
Cottonbound, you glittered one night
across snowfields in Wisconsin
Snow and cotton bound me up with you.
Next day they called to say
you had passed while padding
a quilt, “jist as natchrul …”
“Fluid about the heart or gout,” they said,
But I felt you had not passed from that,
but from yearning to catch Old Time
on a line and sinker, draw him by a pincer,
match his eye.
You cached these crazy notions in the quilt.
Sunbonnet … flour sack … Sunday silk,
though your berry mind was not in it, but
Out uprooting hens and finding speckled eggs,
fretting barefoot where the milksnakes
crawl as thick as mud and big around as your ankle.
About if the booger man was real, then
what—and if Jesus hung that long, or if
tickfever would bring you down this year.
You “probly” knew, six hundred miles away,
I grew to you like a snail to its shell, or a
chameleon lizard to your well bucket, or
bachelor buttons to the clay.
You most likely knew my fear.