Friday, May 24, 2013

Darling, I Listen- A True Story (for Alison) by Suza Lambert Bowser rec'vd May 14th

My wide-eyed sister discovers two king snakes- slick, black, and six feet long- hanging around the closet. King snakes don't bite but they elicit the same primal response that makes us buy a bushel of apples to bake a bunch of pies.

1769-1869 is a hundred years
1869-1969 is another hundred more.
Plenty of time for king snake couples to take advantage of Southern Hospitality in an old house
They used to call "Flowers Lot" once a county show piece- with Linden trees all the way from Germany- now just another snake-ridden antique on Route 13- the Delaware "Dual".

At night, headlights wash my bedroom walls.
Above the hurtling doppler of trucks, I hear the thin wet scrape of snakes and the dry brush of slave hands gliding up the tiny stairs above the kitchen.

The double front doors allow for white folks' coffins. The shed out back reeks of hundred year old sweat. We decide to knock it down but not before I hear the unmistakable chink of of chains and the ceiling hiss and crack of the whip. We bulldoze that rotting vine-covered hulk into sandy soil.

We also take out the kitchen hearth, the black crane and cast iron kettle but not before I note the worn marks of hands, fingers, and palms that stirred, patted, kneaded and smoothed the bread- the hands that fed.

(All this touching! Hand to wood, skin to wall!
All so intimate, so noisey!
Now my hands join the chorus; I roll trhe dough
And my fresh baked apple pie permeates the beaded beams.)

I don't fear the snakes so much; it's the ghosts that unnerve my white-descended soil. They're especially loud at night:
The whisper of black hands sliding down the treasured banister,
peeling crabs and shucking oysters,
their voices murmuring soft negro melodies.

Lying in my crowded room, I hear mice chewing electrical wires. (Maybe the king snakes will eat them, I think.)
An ancient wind rises and sweeps the eaves with sighs.
The slaves are gone, but the snakes are here to stay.
They ring my sleep.

I'm an Egyptian princess and long black fingers braid my hair.

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