©Dawn Evans Radford

Aunt Mary Peadon

In a three-leg cauldron

She cooked and stirred with a stick

Dirty clothes

And anything we brought her:





Owls our daddy shot from the pecan tree.

Her mangy dogs watched her,

Sweat eyed,

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

Miss Striker,

Wire-haired wearer

Of long witch dresses,

Gave us the golden gift of reading.

Eagle fingered,

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.

She quilted—

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

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.

Mrs. Briggs

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