• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 08

Boone County Hundred Years Later

Bessie the first time I saw your photograph in the family book, I didn’t know I would look like you, but here I am 42 and as lean and hard as any of your bunch. The hollow in my neck is so deep it could hold a cup of milk.

Picture you tried to tell me this years back. You said you, soft child, eating and dumb in your daddy’s house, in your husband’s house. You will see. You’ll thin out, dry out, and get left before you find the staying place. And then you’ll be you, but skinny and mean. And there I’ll be, your tintype said.

Terrors. Twenty years ago I held the picture of you, the one I know you by, looked at you with your hair back and all the kids about you. The baby on the watermelon and all of them, every one of them has your eyes, those looking-for-a-fight eyes. That time I held the picture my hand was soft, was pink, my finger plumped out a little around my wedding ring. I told myself you were far away and foreign, but there was a flash of something hot in my throat that said girl just you wait and see. Today I held you and all those kids in my hand, and by God, just like you said there’s my hand all bones and no ring. The children are all about and my mouth is set like yours. I am looking for a fight.

Today you said to look again at the other pictures, that one taken in full sun. I did. You in a summer dress alongside him, your shoulders touching, easy before a field of cane. Mind my hair you said. See how it is loose and the breeze is kissing it. And right after, he reached out and touched my hair. They told us the land wouldn’t grow cane so we grew it just to spite them and don’t let no one tell you there’s no good in spite.

I look again just now. You say there’s no way to know this by looking at the picture, but him and me are facing the barn and there is the speckled bunch of pigs I farrowed with my own hands. Your same hands, you say. Look down at your hands, at the picture in your stick fingers.


Boone County Hundred Years Later

This time I do not miss it. I look at my hands, at the blue rope veins and short fingernails. My hair is loose and I answer to no one. I smile and touch my face to find ropes there too.