Monday, October 1, 2012
His name weren’t Abraham Clyde but William Clyde, William was Abraham’s
middle name. Abraham was called Abram, Abraham or Abram they’s the same.
She wore her hair in a bun when she left the house, but rarely now that her legs
didn’t hold her body up so good and move it around the way she’d learned it to,
she said. She never wrote much, just short letters to let me know she was alive.
She wrote words the same she heard them said, no fancy swirl to make a letter,
just the way she moved her fingers without moving their wrist, like an ax falling
to pierce the heart of a block of wood, what she used to do, that Clyde did now
as he done everything else she once did, he even put in a modern toilet for her,
she liked it better than the chamber pot she had to empty every morning once,
it seemed long ago though only months had passed and he worked out carpenter
ing, she called it, like Abram did between the coal mines and the cotton fields,
waiting to be hired back or moving them across the river to crop cotton shares.
Effie stood up. She wanted a little snuff and got it. She chewed a while and spat
into the spittoon, that brass bowl shaped like an ear seen from inside if you could
but only you couldn’t see that in dreams and settled for saying it was a spittoon
she’ll take to the grave like the Pharoahs took everything they owned to help buy
their passage through the pyramid and out the other side into the netherworld.
She didn’t know what to think of what the Christians liked to call Heaven. Hell,
she knew, was already here, on Earth, created by those who had to own it all.
Though she never laughed much, she did laugh when she told me her dreams.
She had one the black man showed up to close the door and she had to go out
the window, the black man turned white when she looked at him from outside,
also stars came close, falling but didn’t touch the ground before they shattered,
the panthers and the skylarks were all around her while she waited the man out
and won when she woke up, he was gone but so were they and the moon stared
at her through the window, the crickets choired, the fireflies burned up the woods
to hear her tell it. Clyde was all she had now. He drove to Fort Smith to be loved.
She was afraid one of his women would steal him from her, and she told him so.
He went anyway. He was a normal man, she knew. She didn’t want to be alone
any longer. Once her sons were all gone to war. Convoys passed on the highway
outside her window and she didn’t even chew while she wondered if one of them
was in one of the trucks but if they were surely they’d have the truck stop, come
to the window or at least step outside the cab to wave, let her know they saw her.
She did not pray. She never prayed. She knew she should but that was all back
before she met Abram, when she lived with Jeff and Doll and their growing son
Tom, "double cousins," she liked to say, "is closer than brother and sister," said
almost happily knowing Tom was named for her mama’s brother who said he was
a blood, but he weren’t, he was a breed like her, but he was named for his daddy,
who was full blood chalaqui, what he liked to call his roots, the Cherokee caves.
Jeff and Doll were Frank and Pearl's brother and sister, and when Frank left
with Pearl gone she lived with her aunt and uncle and Tom was her first love.
She was too little to know it then. It was only after Abram was shot and killed,
she thought about it. The first time, she called it. She never told anyone but me,
and I don’t want to tell it to anyone who never knew her and her circumstances,
left a widow on that cotton farm her six sons would have to work, her daughter
help her find food to feed them and keep the house clean where the dirt blows
around like devils before they fall to earth the way she once heard a devil does,
and it was the same day after day before the cotton was picked and her six men
who were once boys did it all so the fat man who owned the place would share
the yield, the money, to pay their way after they took the wagon across the river
waiting on the other side for the mines to call her men to work below the Earth
coming out after dark the way they went in before light and black as the man
in her dreams but they were her own and living in this camp was up to them.
(1 October 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander