Miss Jenny / Michelle Castleberry

Miss Jenny was one of our church's widow women,
which meant we gave her most of the deer meat
we hunted and dragged from the woods each fall.
She was somehow related, though the genealogy
was different with each telling.
So some days she was Aunt Jenny, sometimes Miss.
Always, yes ma'am.
I could never imagine her married,
stout as a concrete piling,
feet always planted shoulder-wide,
ready for something unwelcomed, running fast..
I watched her once in our field smoke a cigarette
and between bites of a tomato that she ate like an apple.
Her only nod to gentility
was wiping the pesticide off
on the tail of her dress first.
But she had been married back when
to a long, gaunt man
to this day described in the county
as kind-hearted soul but
bad to drink. Bad to drink.
A sweet, sweet man who soured on mash
at least twice a month.
Intent on argument and a place
to knock his broad hands, he often went for Jenny.
But after a while she figured out that he would follow her,
curses spilling from the corners of his mouth
like tobacco spit.
He followed her around winding up his rage like a toy.
One night she led him yelling to the corn crib
where she pushed him down into his own fumes
to scream, whimper and cry all night.
This became their custom.
In this memory I do not own, I see her opening the door
to the crib those mornings, to her hang dog, hungover man,
restored for a moment by a wary forgiveness
and a door with a strong latch.

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