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.
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