When Granddad lifted the lid of his cigar box,
the jewels inside glowed like two o’clock sunshine
passing through glass
bottles arranged on a windowsill: sapphire,
ruby, the emerald of green chromium.
He’d select a trinket, the ring with violet nugget,
the broken-chain brass locket, and give it to me, a thing,
I was glad to have
though on the way home Daddy pronounced it junk
picked off the city streets by a drunk.
You are dead now, Granddaddy, but I remember
you sat next to me on the porch swing
until Mama came to the door
to ask in a strange voice
what we were doing.
I remember you called her
Polly, and you called me Little Polly,
But I also remember the story Mama told me, years later,
when I was grown and had children
of my own, the story of how she, seeking warmth
in the poor-cold house one winter,
climbed into bed between you and her mother
And lay there in the teenage innocence of the forties
while her mother went to the kitchen
to cook breakfast, and her brothers dug foxholes
in Europe, lay there next to you
until she felt your fingers fumble
With the hem of her nightgown, the storm
outside spitting ice through the hole in the window,
the dark pressing in to join
the dark inside the room.
Walking Home Blacksburg Virginia June 1974
I had just passed the abandoned Victorian house,
the tombstones in the adjacent cemetery,
the carved angels and lambs
when I heard the car turn off the main road
and rumble to a crawl behind me-
Hey, lady, needa ride?
He was alone behind the wheel. I could see his tee shirt
wet with sweat, his cigarette
like a part of him, but languid in his hand.
The hair had risen on my neck and I knew he could see
my heart pounding under my tank top,
my bra missing.
Something warned me not to answer,
just keep walking, and I didn’t look at him again,
though he rolled the car behind me
and honked the horn, yelling and cursing
before he gunned the engine and sped off in a fit
of dust and gravel
that summer I was twenty-one and decided
to walk home from school, out there,
beside the empty, fenceless fields.
Love Shack, 1971
We sat, backs to the wall, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”
blasting from a tape deck in the corner, black light
rod radioactive violet.
Every college kid drinking beer,
my date’s bottle beaded with sweat
as he watched me pretend to sip
my paper cup of Coke shot with vodka.
The cabin in the woods, its private room
at the back, seemed familiar to the others who,
two by two, disappeared behind the closed door.
At seventeen, I was so green I asked my date
what they were doing, and he, to give him credit,
hesitated, as if wrestling with some emotion,
then simply said ‘getting to know each other better.’
Eventually, we walked outside
to sit in his car. He talked about
the consciousness of flowers and called it something
I can’t remember. Then he drove me home
and it would be years before I realized
the true nature of that place, the reason
for my presence there,
How much I trusted him, the way
my trust might have gone
the other way.
Sherry Beasley is the author of four poetry books, the latest of which is Les Fleurs: Award-winning Poems 2008-2014 (Wood Nymph Press). She lives in Patrick County, Virginia where she is an animal-rights activist and professional designer and artisan. She can also milk a cow and churn butter.