Willie Mae

I put the water on,
listened to the low voices of the woman and her man.
The doctor would come and the hearse
then the man with the jeep that would pull
the long car to the cemetery
because by then the flurries had become a blizzard.
But now there was just the strange nativity of them.
I put the water on,
pumped from the creek she would have been baptized in.
The night won’t sing “Amazing Grace” or “Am I born to die”
but in whispers and splitting of wood in the fire
that longing for the words you speak
in daylight, when no baby’s blood had betrayed her,
for those words to be true.

She was easy to wash. The folds of her neck and thighs,
eaten away. A salt and cedar incense lingered
in her black hair. Let it linger. I finger-curled
hair stuck to her neck, dressed her in the pink dress I’d brought—
knowing that there would be no “best” dress in this dirt-floor house—
and because it was cold,
a white sweater.

Leslie D. Bohn, Nashville native, received her M.A. from the University of South Dakota. Her work has appeared in print and online journals including Relief, Ruminate, and Poems & Plays (as a finalist for the Tennessee Chapbook Prize). Her current obsessions are embroidery and bone collecting. (Leslie.Diane.Bohn@gmail.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761