Petunias, By Alicia Cole
They clipped us off like so many petunias
in Alabama. Always we lived in Alabama.
My mother and grandmother's hands were
white from flouring chicken. I wondered
how they wrung the neck. Not the gesture
of it, mind, but the feel-the feathery heft,
the quick snapping flop of the body's
weight, the singular motion of a wrung
body nestled on a strong arm. Fathers,
I learned, were also made for wringing.Huddled against my mother's thigh,
her apron momentarily dry, I did not
hunger to understand any of the preceding
motions that had tied him to that tree.
I ate my first apricot that day, the Mistress
feeling sorry. My mouth suckled the pit.
It's the roadside now where I stand, close
to where the men in hoods have stood,
still eager to flour chickens, still raising
their wild petunia heads in Alabama.
My grandmother sometimes stands
with me when she's not wandering,
worrying her mouth with all the trying
times of child rearing and Master tiring.
One day she will pass on-like my mother,
like my father-after all the worry is gone.
I will still be here wondering why some
petunias are cut down while others
are allowed to grow wild. Will they ever
all feel sorry? Where is God and His apricot
and its perfect grow-anew pit?