Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beulah, Lahoma

Twin girls were born to Drusilla
not long after Abe was buried.
She called one Beulah, for a song
she thought the child heard in heaven
when the angels carried her down
to be with her twin sister Lahoma
who was named for her grandma’s land.
Drusilla said she even looked like Pearl,
though nobody but her knew it,
and even so the sky was dark the day
they were born and the night they died.

Drusilla thought Beulah favored Abe,
her eyes never failed to remind her of him:
penetrating gray and knowing.
Likely Beulah would have Abe’s hands
and she would be as tall as her mother.
Lahoma looked more like Pearl every day,
that calm face that wanted to smile
even in her sleep. Lahoma’s black eyes
were round like Pearl’s in her baby pictures,
lost when they moved across the river east.

Lahoma’s round face the spitting image
of Pearl’s, Drusilla prayed for her long life.
Lahoma was slowly failing. Beulah
began to follow. Drusilla knew God
had abandoned her for good. She was bad
and hateful, driving Abe away from home
when he started in on her and himself,
and she didn’t believe in marriage vows
that could not be the same for everyone.
She loved Abe and should have kept him near her
to still his tongue and calm her wild fires.

When her boys came in from the cotton field,
Eunice served them hog jowl and black-eyed peas.
They swallowed and washed food down with water.
She bought the pork from the man at the store
a mile up the dusty road, on credit.
They paid him after the cotton came in.
Or the owner took it from their earnings.
The man at the store was his brother.
They liked money to stay in their family.
They looked down on Drusilla’s family.

Rain was rare but when it fell they stayed in.
On one such day she let them go to town.
The three youngest boys smiled to talk to girls,
the three oldest talked women into bed.
Drusilla fed the stove for warmth and rocked
the twins. By dark rain still fell. When the boys
returned, both babies were gasping for air
and the horse’s head was turned back to town.
Wrapped in warm blankets in Drusilla’s arms
sheltering them from rain, they were near
Lequire when she looked in and found them dead.

(4 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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