My husband did all this. We used to live
in a rambling kind of house with gossipy verandas.
Then he bought a stove, an iron stove with a reservoir to it.
He always insisted it was bad luck to come in that door
and go out the other. It's bad luck to pay back salt
if you borrow it. To the day he died
he smelled pulled up from the dirt. He worked
the Norfolk Southern forty years walking on top
of freight trains. I've seen him up there
and the wind just blowing-- you could see the wind
blowing his clothes.
Our second house he built it.
Cut me a yard broom from dogwood bushes,
tied in three places. Hogs squealed under the floorboards
in winter--you could see one through the cracks.
He had something he said to hush them.
Come up the porch steps arms full of lightwood.
In those days we drank good old cool water
out of the well--cool and put some syrup in it
and stir it up and drink it right along
with our dinner. The summers were so hot you saw
little devils twizzling out in front of you.
He called them lazy jacks. It was the heat.
Listen at that bird, he'd say. It's telling us,
Love one another. He caught a ride back
from town with seeds and a hoop of greasy cheese and crackers and
sardines and light bread. He carried that umbrella
over me and I would have his hat walking to church.
We lost the first one. The midwife came late, she used dirt-
dauber tea for my pains. He tried telling me
it wasn't any death owl, it was a ordinary hoot owl outside
the house. But I tied a knot in my sheet
so it wouldn't quiver. I was in such trouble,
he petted me a lot. Three days labor he attended me
how a dragonfly hovers over water in the clear sun.
The next year we had a beautiful girl baby, Ruthie.
Ruthie, after my mother. Towards the end,
he was a bit thick-listed. I never yelled though, he read my lips.
When the katydid chirps, I miss him
saying there'll be forty days until frost. Ones who were in trouble
they always sought him out. Listen
at that bird, he'd say.
The things he knew how to do he did them.