A Poem by Kimberly A. Bolton
She shore looks good don’t she,
all laid out in her Sundee best,
hands folded together an’ at rest
fer the first time in years,
leastways ever since I can remember.
Those hands of her’n were never idle an’
that’s a fact.
Why she was still warshin’ clothes
on the scrub board up until a few years ago,
bent over that ol tin tub, suds up to her
elbows, hands all rough an’ red from the heat.
She always used to say warsh for wash an’
receipts when she was atalkin’ ‘bout recipes.
Speakin-a which, that woman could shore
fry up a pan a chicken that’d make yore
She used that big cast-iron skillet of her’n,
even baked biscuits in it on top-a the stove
I’m missin’ her cookin’ a’ready just thinkin’
Corrie May’d cook up those big thrashin’ dinners
fer all the farmhands way back when, ‘member?
An’ the men, they didn’t waste no time gettin’
to the table neither.
Her chicken an’ biscuits couldn’t be beat, an’ if
you was late to the table that was just too durn bad.
She looks so natural layin’ there don’t she?
Fixed her hair up right nice, just the way
she always wore it.
She grayed early, you know, when she was
in her twenties;
Such a shame, an’ she was a looker to boot.
They said folks in her family all grayed early
‘bout every other generation.
But me, I reckon it was that was durned ol husband
Harry went an’ kilt hisself back in ‘thirty-nine,
I reckon it was, on accounta losin’ the farm to the bank. .
Just up an’ put a shotgun in his mouth an’ pulled
God-awful mess it was.
Her an’ them kids comin’ home from church
that Sundee n’ findin’ him in the back room
Harry made her a widder way too early,
an’ leavin’ them kids without a Pa.
‘Course, the boys was old enough by then
to help out their Ma, but that lil un,
Norma Jean, she didn’t know whut was goin’ on,
whut with her Pa dead an’ them havin’ to pack up
everythin’ an’ move clean out to Cotton.
The insurance man, he felt sorry fer Corrie May
an’ the fix she was in.
He fudged on that claim doncha know,
we all knowed it, but didn’t nobody pay no mind.
It was the Depression-
onliest ones to have money back then was bankers
an’ the insurance company.
Why should they keep all that money?
They shorely didn’t need it, not as bad as Corrie May
an’ her brood did-
wrote down it was a accidental death er some such.
She got six hun’red dollars to buy that ol’ farmhouse
an’ a Jersey cow an’ a course they had them chickens
what Charlie done raised an’ the bank fergot
to collect with the rest-a the stock. . .
Oh, an’ that reminds me of a funny she tol’ one time-
when she was a young ‘un at home an’ before all this
Her Ma sent her out to the chicken yard onc’t
to fetch a chicken an’ wring its neck fer supper.
Said she went out there to catch the damn bird,
an’ it was a-squawkin’ an’ a-floppin’, beatin’ her all to hell
with its wings, an’ she tryin’ to get a hand ‘round its neck.
First time she ever wrung a chicken’s neck, she said.
Corrie May finally got a-holt of it to where she could twist
its neck ‘round, when it up an’ flopped outta her hands an’
onto the ground, started chasin’ her ‘round the yard with
its head all twisted backards, slappin’’ its wings an’
screechin’ like a banshee, an’ Corrie May scairt so bad
she’s a-runnin’ an’ screamin’ with that chicken after her,
til her Ma come out to see what all the ruckus was ‘bout.
Granny Patterson, that was her Ma, took one look
an’ started laughin’, couldn’t help herself, it was too
She stepped off the porch an’ reached down an’ got
a-holt of that chicken to finish what Corrie May
started, an’ Corrie May still screamin’ an’ carryin’ on til her Ma
Tol’ her to hush, or she’d cut a switch an’ give her somethin’ to scream ‘bout.
She remarried, ya know, a few years after they put
Harry in the ground.
‘Course all the boys was growed an’ gone by then,
Norma Jean was the onliest one left at home.
Ol Jim, he was a decent ‘nough feller, but he liked
his cards an’ his likker.
They lived in Cotton fer a good many years,
stayed in that ol farmhouse of her’n,
kept a cow er two fer the extry money it brung in
what with the butter an’ cream.
I ‘member Jim before he died, tol’ me onc’t
how Corrie May went out to the barn this here
one time to milk the cow.
Got herself a nice bucketful, when that cow done
raised its tail an’ pissed right in that bucket-a milk.
Jim said he never heard such caterwaulin’ as what
come outta that barn that day.
Hoo-whee! Said he didn’t know that woman could
cuss like she did.
She come stormin’ outta that barn, face redder’n- a
pickled beet an’ madder n’ a wet hen.
pointed a finger back at the barn, said that damn cow
done pissed right in a good bucket-a milk.
Jim tol me he laughed so hard he thought he’d pee
hisself right then an’ there.
Well, that only made Corrie May madder’n hell.
I tell you, that was one woman what could holt a grudge.
She stayed mad at Jim an’ that cow fer days,
wouldn’t have nothin’ to do with either one of ‘em.
Ol Jim, he died long before she did, God rest his soul.
Good thing, too, she wasn’t the easiest woman
to live with from what I heard tell.
An’ Corrie May never married again after that.
Figured two husbands was enough fer one woman’s
lifetime, I reckon.
She moved into town an’ did a lil housekeepin’ fer folks
an’ fer that no account priest over to the Holy Mary,
Mother of God Church.
She had a lil house all to herself. Liked her soaps on
the tv, did a lil quiltin’ now an’ then.
Charlie’d come over an’ mow her grass an’ help tend
her garden. Norma Jean’d help her with the grocery
shoppin’ ever Fridee,an’ the grandkids all gotta kick
stayin’ with her on the weekends.
She went on like that fer years until the fam’ly started
noticin’ she was fergettin’ things like turnin’ the
burner off’n the stove or lettin’ the bathtub water
run over onto the floor.
They’s ascairt she’d set the house on fire or drowned
herself in the tub or some such.
So, the boys an’ Norma Jean they packed her off
to the nursin’ home.
Twas the onliest thing they knew to do.
Two-a the boys lived clean outta state an’
neither one in too a good-a health theirselves.
Charlie’s wife had the cancer an’ Norma Jean
still had younguns at home an’ no room fer her
The nursin’ home was all that was left.
I reckon it’s a blessin’ she didn’t last very long
in there anyhow.
Corrie May woulda hated to know she was in a
Cain’t say as I blame her either.
Well, they’re tellin’ us it’s time to sit ourselves.
I see Corrie May’s kin is a’ready to close up
God rest her soul, she lived a long life.
I ‘m gonna miss havin’ her ‘round to jaw with.