Your daddy’s a coal miner,
he works there with Floyce Been.
Floyce came from Wales,
his surname sounds like “Bean,”
only you drag the two “e”s
slurring them. He’s dead now.
Your daddy works the mines
with Bill McBride, Craven Harris,
and Richard Bartlett,
the three you know. You’re only
barely out of babyhood,
but you can talk and listen closely
until you can say all the names
with whom your daddy works
Bill loves his family and baseball,
Richard loves his wife and daughter.
Craven and Retha married
when your mother and daddy did.
They call it a “double wedding.”
Craven’s son Jimmy loves horses
he brings around with one for you.
It’s a high reach to the stirrup,
you need a hand to sit upright
in the saddle you love to hear creak
as you learn to hug the horse
with your knees, your legs so short
Jimmy Harris leads you
holding the bridle with one hand
around your grandma’s yard.
She lives by the highway,
you live up Conley Road.
Farther up is Cross Cemetery.
There’s a grave there unmarked.
Inside is Robert Rufus,
your older brother. He stays there
all year every year so far.
Your mother’s says you will all be
together. You say, When?
She turns her head: Someday.
Your mother’s father Joe Brown
is a gandy dancer in Oklahoma.
Your mother’s mother has a new
family in Detroit. Then one in L.A.
Rufus Conley reared your mother
on the road named for him.
We live in the house Rufus left her.
She puts me naked on a blanket
in the front yard and shoos away
the rooster when he comes around
the house from the backyard.
I grow older, my feet in both stirrups,
loving hearing the saddle creak
under me, and hold the bridle myself
riding alongside Jimmy Harris,
who will grow up someday
a half century after our childhood here
and die of AIDS
in Shreveport, as far from his birth
as I am here from childhood.
I lean over to stroke the mane,
dreaming I’m riding through the pine
back of our house, above Drusilla’s.
When she lets me stay overnight
we watch the fireflies from the yard.
Drusilla always tells me a new story
she’s not always in.
She says she won’t live forever, I should
remember what she says.
When my mother goes to church alone,
I watch Drusilla churn butter,
draw water from the well,
make biscuits and serve them hot.
A dream is not a horse. He has no name.
Jimmy says he’s mine as long as I want,
and the fourth of Drusilla’s sons,
my father, brings his paycheck home,
never enough extra, but there is enough.
And maybe I’ll make money of my own
(13 February 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander