©Dawn Evans Radford
Aunt Mary Peadon
In a three-leg cauldron
She cooked and stirred with a stick
And anything we brought her:
Owls our daddy shot from the pecan tree.
Her mangy dogs watched her,
From the shade of her shriveled house
And sick fig bushes.
She stirred and sang,
Gonna march on down to Jordan
And wash my sins away.
She called us her white chulrens.
She never invited us to eat.
First Grade Teacher
Of long witch dresses,
Gave us the golden gift of reading.
She snatched bad boys
By the hair of their heads and
Marched them frontward
For public scourging.
Before Billy started school
He had his hair cropped
Close to his head.
After Grandma died
Grandpa wrote the Texas
Lonely Hearts Club
And Lillian came,
Round and plump,
Smelling of Pond’s
Lotion and powder,
Calling him Dollin.
Kept the latest one hoisted
To the parlor rafters
On a boarded frame—
And learned to keep the preacher
Waiting at the church
For Sunday dinner
While Grandpa got the chicken,
Rice and gravy, butterbeans,
Biscuits and pound cake ready.
It was on their wedding night,
Her braids unraveled and combed
To her knees, then worked and wound
Like gift-wrapping ribbons around her
Head, when he loved her
Crossing the St. Marks Trestle
Some nights I remember how the marsh mud
Sucked and bubbled, the sun baked my head,
How the slobbering fiddler crabs
Scraped their claws and slinked away
From us into their holes. Down the rail
a lizard scuttered and flicked into
the crevice dark of splintered
tie. Hot creosote pricked and burned
my feet. Through the spaces
between the ties, fiddler crabs
and sawgrass reeds passed away and the
blood-brown water rippled me dizzy.
Let’s go back,” I heard Mama say. “I just
Wanted the kids to see this bridge. Once
They take up this line, we won’t get
Another chance to see it.”
Thirty years and yet some nights
I see it stalking the marsh.
I smell Daddy’s Camel smoke and the sweat
On my lip. Spaces grow where ties
Have rotted and fallen away.
They grow, and the trestle rises
Until the sky falling through the spaces
Roils and ripples me dizzy.
Miss Peddie kept her broomstick body clad in
Ankle-length summer cotton.
She tied black granny boots onto her feet and
A silver-gray bun in her hair.
When vagrant dogs sniffed their way over the
Sand in her yard, she came out and shot
Them with her blunderbuss gun.
We were afraid to go in after our softballs,
Rubber balls, footballs, basketballs.
We thought she was a witch,
But all she brewed was bathtub moonshine
She sold through the window
To faceless, dollared hands
That stole down the path
Through the swamp
Behind her house.
Once a year, Mama said, Miss Peddie would call
Her over and give her back a grocery sack
Full of balls.
With glancing eyes of a leather-faced rat,
She wore her husband’s cast off shoes
To dig for treasure at the dump:
Books, papers, dishes, what-nots,
Clothes to wear to the docks
Where she asked for fishheads
To carry home in the towsack
She found behind the A&P
While gleaning garbage for
Old bread, soupbones, onions, cabbage.
She gathered blackberries beside the road,
Bananas from trees in the swamp.
She told our hungry eyes about bear traps
Under her grapefruit tree
Read a Bible verse over Danny’s cut face
To stop the blood.
She made washpot stew with fishheads,
Then served it in cracked plates to her hawknose
Husband while he called her a bloody fool.
When he died, she put quarters in his eyes,
A new black suit on his bones
And buried him on the rich folks’ side of the