Mama and My Aunt and Even I

Annie Woodford

I should have named my daughter Freedom.

I should have bathed her newborn scalp in rain

collected off the tin roof of Granny’s house.

Mama said, A whistling girl and a crowing hen —

neither will come to a good end.

She heard it from her Mama.

But what she really meant was Whistle, dammit.

But what she did was teach me how to whistle.

Mama and my aunt and even I

used to grease ourselves up with Hawaiian Tropic

and stretch out on itchy grass in Bassett.

The first heat each spring was a calling.

Small gnats would stick to us.

Cigarettes were delicious then

and gave us something to do

with our fretting hands, our fretting mouths.

Our slick fingers left stains on their paper.

Mama and Audrey would say:

Put the baby in the washtub.

Put the washtub in the shade.

Here is In Cold Blood. Tell us what you think.

I wanted to be Truman Capote,

the God-listener, the filter

through which violence passes

and becomes rain.

But mostly I wanted to escape —

the way Tru did —

the Alabama, the Kansas, the Bassett

willing to prop our heads up on a pillow

before blowing out our brains,

where folks don’t see much wrong

with death by hanging.


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