In your old iron bed you died alone. I was not there
but I knew the bed and I knew the room. Thin
damp mattress, concrete floor polished smooth,
salt-sprayed windowpanes white as bone. In
the morning you were found there, already gone.
What your grown sons had done—
having moved away, they found a stranger to cook
for you, clean, bathe and dress you. Still
you died alone. As do we all, I can hear you say,
clicking your tongue. In your kitchen sink,
a basin of eels. On your stove, a pot of vinegar
steaming. Later, after sundown, you sit
inside your porch, screened walls weathered
black, and listen for the sound of the fire horn.
Out on the cut, a lone boat glides over water.
Beneath lantern light: flounder giggers.
Beaufort was all you knew: flat land, fish breeze,
your father’s callused fingers sewing sails.
Wild horses roamed the spit. Some nights, you’d see
their shadows under the light of the moon,
pawing for fresh water. Fresh water—even your faucet
spilled salt. No wonder you were tough.
When your husband died, you carried on. You lost
a front tooth, accepted the dark hole
left behind. I was maybe ten when I first slept
with you: after you became a widow,
burrowing in the cold empty side of your bed.
A streetlight gleamed in your chipped
mirror like the eye of a ghost. I felt you breathe
beside me, your thin ribs lifting with each
shallow breath. A curtain floated over the window
in the warm night breeze, and your long bosom
drooped beneath your loose gown. On your pillow,
your wild gray hair.
1817 Central Avenue, Room 302
Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 315-2131 (voicemail)
Office Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 am – 3 pm
Charlotte Lit is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, EIN 47-4988291. Contributions are tax deductible.
Cancellation and Refund Policy