Shorty was the name of the guy my dad invited for dinner.
My dad was working at the Camp Chaffee Fire Department.
Shorty was a buck private about to leave for the Front.
He knew he wouldn’t go to the Asian Theater.
Infantry shipped to Europe. Sailors like my uncle Ernest
were sent to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor,
shred the alliance between Hirohito and Hitler.
Shorty was off to where Jess, Cleve, and Buster were.
Drusilla counted the trucks in the convoy passing by,
chewing and spitting, a habit she took up in cotton fields
when resting from pulling the hundred pounds
in the long sacks all her boys–every one of the six–filled.
She always worked in her mind with what her body couldn't do.
Some days she was said to be filled with "imagination,"
labeled "witch" by some, "crazy" by others,
and nobody who wasn’t poor would give it a second thought.
Drusilla knew the mind wouldn’t feed her seven children
or sate the hunger she’d known all her life
or quench the thirst they all suffered when thorns
from the ripe bolls ripped skin and no one’s there to dowse
for water. If such grief was over, good riddance.
She listened to the radio tell her why her sons are where
America was fighting for freedom from slavery.
You got to know what you don’t want any more of
to send your sons–all but Clyde, here to care for you,
and Manuel with his family in Wichita working
the Boeing assembly line building the bombers–
all you had left in this God abandoned country,
no matter what the cowardly preachers say.
Ship them out to die, or if they’re lucky come home
to return to look for work, and settle for the jobs
their hands were never strangers to, callused
from the fields, the blue scars deep in their skin
from coal their picks shattered, the chips flying,
lamps extinguished. When Jess came back he said
the bullets were thick as flies, the kind poor people
swat as they dine, then the fat ones follow.
(15 October 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander