Bell City

Mother was not particularly pretty.
Short, willful, ruddy of face and hands.
"Spunky," I think they called her,
Even in the '50s, when young women were,
More often than not, only ladies.

They called her brother a "fag,"
And she never forgot it.
Even in her old age,
When the past had crystallized
Into mortgages and kidney stones,
The memory warped her

Nothing was to be

One time especially,
Late November, frost,
Wind, iron in the vein,
"Stone cold," I think they called it,
the beating was not particularly

No proof to be had.
No raid on the lovers.
Nothing like that.
Just suspicion and thoughts,
Wind, iron in the

I know she wondered.
He could he take it?
How did he do it?
And, more, what could she have
Done? What could she give

Then Christmas with cheer and
Peace, a midwinter hiatus
In the grinding of people into
Memory and the future.
The Snow Queen Dance
And Mother took Glen, the "fag,"
As her date.

Thoughts and suspicion,
Wind, etc. But she would have
None of it.

They danced and
Danced, the last to

Even so, I know she
Wondered. How could he take

What could she give

It wasn't long and then they were
Gone, together to New Orleans,
"The City of Sin," they called it,
even in the '50s. But it wasn't
Bell City. It wasn't

They lived, worked, married,
One of them had children,
The other did not.
And then one of them

My mother, short,
Willful, knew she would be
The last to go
Because memory and the future,
Though not particularly pretty,
Were spunkier yet. After all,
They had brought her home:
Unforgiven, cold,
Iron in the vein.

What else could she give him?