by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
for Rachelle 4/27/2020
Our moms were widows before they met our fathers.
Their hair blue-black, their hands already chapped, caressed
by Inglis die cast tooling Bren light machine guns, Mauser
ammunition, or Browning Hi-Power handguns, torpedo warhead
casings, or reining sorrels’ leather when they made mountains home.
Their first loves shot, stabbed, or lost in war.
While our fathers picked cotton for a penny-a-pound,
steeped in dust friction-screamed like cats in winds untamed.
Rode fence to make it through school, GI Bills or not.
Married our moms from wingman blind dates,
worked side by side in the hospital in the peak of polio,
then made our broadcloth shifts by hand for school,
dragging thread through eyes, aiming needles clean, while
our widow moms were current fried in hospitals, asylums.
By then, they’d most likely lost three or four kids before
before any survived the early years. Those of us
who did, maybe never told their names, or told
so often we believed we remembered them with us
at the table they were never big enough to seat.
Our work permits in hand at twelve, fields, like oceans,
called us. Factories, registers, bars, counters, tables, horses –
but always the fields. You know the deal, back gone. The former field
worker retraining jump-started some of us from post-middle
school labor vacancies to college, by nearly thirty.
For those of us, widowed just like our moms, with no one
like our dads to pick up our after. Who move through this
like walking rows, straight to the end, straight for draws
on jugs, water, plain solutions tapped.
For those of us who must write, who can’t sleep now, who do know
people who have died, are dying. Who have always known
people who have died, are dying, since the little ones who
preceded us as infants anyway and all the way here, if no one
else nearby will, we will still lose somebodies.
It’s the viscera talking now, the nerves, guts, bombs like sinew,
blue-red deep inside entrails, webs, mussed up neurons,
neural tissue, breaking brains, remains of hearts, like Chiclets
chewed up, spit, forked, forgotten.