Living Alone

ClaudiaLiving Alone

My grandmother Lilly
Grew up just light enough to pass
But not to matter; married at 13
Made her life a torch of love and raised 8 babies on nothing
But what they could scratch and raise and kill
Buried a husband in her 60s
Come live with us! Her children chimed, but she said
no
Bought a used trailer 1st house she ever had with a bathroom
moved it around: Gastonia, Indian Trail, Green Creek
Little side yards of the people who had reason to love her
Including me
The most clarified woman I ever knew
The most kind

Aunt Lena
husband died in a fiery crash
baby in her arms and one in the belly
She was a handsome
Sinewy whiskey-drinking woman of the hills
had other offers to marry but said
no. Do it twice?
She kept an oiled rifle near to hand
Lived by a trout stream and took her water from a spring
Ate more wild meat than grocery goods-made
squirrel dumplings that drew the neighbors like
Pollinators to a hooraw bush
Taught school for 40 years with all her heart
Went home to meet her Jesus satisfied
Bending under the waters of the Primitive Baptist Church at nearly 80
“just in case”

Mrs. Cantrell
lived down an off-lane near the end of our dirt road
sweet cottage with a shaded porch under tall cool cedars
not our chaos but a place where everything had a place
my father took her to church and I used to visit her
bent gnarled kind shy
had a game laid out on the table when I came by
parched peanuts in the oven
She held both my hands whenever I left
As if to calm a stray animal and turn it loose
When she died I wept into the black telephone
A grown man a thousand miles away
I have tears now, writing this

Watching the pasture
that divides my two nearest neighbors
Widows both
Living in houses they raised a family and endured a husband in
Alive, wily, come into their own.
Maybe I can go sit with them today, carry some sweet corn and shuck it
I’ll say this
Sometimes a woman
has a seed of waiting
Imbedded in her by circumstance and blood
Whose life is a long
Exhalation of birthings until
the last one out of the canal is herself alone
Sufficient
Reveled in solitude
how I love and cherish them
Their beacon, their amplitude, their ripe sanctuary.
When I grow up I want to be just like that.

11 thoughts on “Living Alone

  1. What a gift for a little sister that only knew one of them well. Your words help me to know them better and that means more than I can say.

    Like

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