Black Snakes and Happy

 

Connell’s Point, Arkansas

Mama’s green dress and hair in a tight bun holding me on the old wooden porch of the tiny parsonage, while daddy and my big brother bring Happy and her twelve puppies around the corner of the house,

looking for all the world like an unspotted version of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and me, a two-year old sitting on the porch amazed, transfixed and a little horrified, only now realizing this is my first memory of life.

 

 

Daddy and my big brother rush into the house where I am eating my biscuit with syrup and butter

“come see, come see, daddy killed a black snake!” my brother yelled. Biscuit in one sticky hand and mama holding the other I tumble out on the front porch to see a long black snake at the base of the steps neatly chopped into twelve bloody pieces. I peer over the edge down the three feet to the dirt

and finish my biscuit.

 

Across the way stood an old school house once painted, now gray clapboard rotted and sagging

and a poor family squatted there for a while. Twelve children, more boys than girls and the older boys would walk the top of the schoolyard swing sets like balance beams until they fell and moaned in the dirt.

 

My father the preacher, late for his own service with a washcloth spit washing our dirty faces and hands

and walking us across the dirt road to the church where we all sang a capela hymns and spirituals until daddy would get up and tell us stories.

 

Old men, to me, at age three, though much younger than I am now sitting after Sunday dinner with the preacher and his family, telling tales while the women cleaned up and all I remember is the smell of a house too many years heated by wood smoke

 

Two little boys in a stall shower, in a bathroom built onto the back porch, as an afterthought when indoor plumbing came, leaning out the back screen door to holler at mama, picking strawberries

in the little strip between the house and the cotton field, “mama where are the towels?” Mama in her yellow rubber gloves and straw hat wiping her brow with her arm, straightening, then peeling the gloves

and coming in to dry us off.

 

Vickie Moore where have you gone?

Behind the parsonage with the weeping willow tree that shaded our window, behind the cotton field,

lived Macleod Moore and his wife and daughter. On nice days all four of us would walk back the dirt road,

chasing grasshoppers and missing mud puddles and we brothers would play with Vickie, who had a nice toy box

and whose age fell half way in between ours but I was only three when we moved away. I never saw Vickie again

until my 14th summer when we were visiting and I saw this pretty girl in pigtails bouncing down the freshly graded road driving her daddy’s pickup truck. This past year when I called my old friend Donna Ray

to tell my mama had died, I asked about Vickie. “She, and her husband both died, a few years ago.

Cancer.”

Mama’s green dress

and hair in a tight bun

Holding me on the old wooden porch

of the tiny parsonage,

while daddy and my big brother

bring Happy and her twelve puppies

around the corner of the house,

looking for all the world like

an unspotted version

of One Hundred and One Dalmatians,

and me, a two-year old sitting

on the porch amazed,

transfixed and a little horrified,

only now realizing this is

my first memory of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy and my big brother

rush into the house

where I am eating my biscuit with syrup and butter

“come see, come see, daddy killed a black snake!”

my brother yelled.

Biscuit in one sticky hand

and mama holding the other

I tumble out on the front porch

to see a long black snake

at the base of the steps

neatly chopped into twelve bloody pieces.

I peer over the edge

down the three feet to the dirt

and finish my biscuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the way

stood an old school house

once painted, now gray

clapboard rotted and sagging

and a poor family squatted there for a while.

Twelve children,

more boys than girls

and the older boys would walk the top

of the schoolyard swing sets

like balance beams

until they fell

and moaned in the dirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father the preacher,

late for his own service

with a washcloth

spit washing our dirty faces and hands

and walking us across the dirt road

to the church where we all sang

a capela hymns and spirituals

until daddy would get up

and tell us stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old men,

to me,

at age three,

though much younger

than I am now

sitting after Sunday dinner

with the preacher and his family,

telling tales

while the women cleaned up

and all I remember is the smell

of a house too many years

heated by wood smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two little boys in a stall shower,

in a bathroom built onto the back porch,

as an afterthought when indoor plumbing came,

leaning out the back screen door

to holler at mama, picking strawberries

in the little strip between the house

and the cotton field,

“mama where are the towels?”

Mama in her yellow rubber gloves

and straw hat wiping her brow with her arm,

straightening,

then peeling the gloves

and coming in to dry us off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vickie Moore where have you gone?

Behind the parsonage

with the weeping willow tree

that shaded our window,

behind the cotton field,

lived Macleod Moore and his wife and daughter.

On nice days

all four of us would walk back the dirt road,

chasing grasshoppers and missing mud puddles

and we brothers would play with Vickie, who had a nice toy box

and whose age fell half way

in between ours

but I was only three when we moved away.

I never saw Vickie again

until my 14th summer

when we were visiting

and I saw this pretty girl

in pigtails bouncing down the freshly graded road

driving her daddy’s pickup truck.

This past year when I called

my old friend Donna Ray

to tell my mama had died,

I asked about Vickie.

“She, and her husband both

died, a few years ago.

Cancer.

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About anthonyuplandpoetwatkins

https://www.goodreads.com/AnthonyUplandpoetWatkins born in Jackson, The United States August 04, 1959 gender male website http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorI... genre Poetry, Historical Fiction influences James M. Lancaster, Brenda Black White, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Al Filreis member since March 2011 About this author edit data As one of the most public lives ever lived by a private citizen, there is little about me that isn't already available at Facebook or Shelfari and countless other places. Poet, writer, construction worker, salesman, truck driver, climber into the attics of total strangers, father and husband, and all around one of the luckiest men on the planet. My luck continued with a win in the June Goodreads Newsletter Contest! What an honor! http://anthonyuplandpoetwatkins.wordp... Additional Influences: Bob Dylan, William Faulkner, Barbara Kingsolver, Gloria Naylor, Eudora Welty
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2 Responses to Black Snakes and Happy

  1. Cracking piece Up, as poem or prose.

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