Faded Kentucky Photograph

Evening shifts to night
and the mourners sit close to the back door
in small clusters
under the burgeoning apple tree
in Nana Jens backyard.
Inside the narrow kitchen,
dishes rattle as older girls soap,
rinse and dry. Through the window
a lone corner streetlight casts more shadow
than shine. Children chase lightening bugs,
rippin and runnin
hoping to spend the dimes that unk
squeezed into their hands.
They stole past the teens
courtin and sly, huddled on dark porches
to the bootleg market that sold unwrapped
peppermint candy sticks
and gin in stout mason jars.
Farther back in the grass near the alley,
amber bottles and crystal glasses
clink amid muffled coarse laughter
and the inhale of unfiltered cigarettes shines
in tight red circles.
Jennie and Sis, legs crossed and heads thrown back,
laugh, smoke curling from their outstretched fingers.
Others, more sedate, spill among the nest
of full-bosomed elders
perched on the front porch
picking bits of truth
from south end gossip. The girl
curious and silent
meanders from group to group,
snares whispered snatches
of ancient family lore .
Grandpa Layfat had to cross
the Ohio river in a hurry with that ole pistol.
June died at 19—always digging
among sewer dampnesss
made for weak lungs.
Then Patty and Sally,
leaving them small children.
The consumption took Theodore too.
Virginia never did know
what happened to old Calvin
after Mama Carrie passed on .
Time was hard
and babies sometime had to be buried
with they mama.

An arched eyebrow and a shoulder
hunched in the girl’s direction. Lips kissed—
a raised index finger. She stops,
waiting to blend into the darkness.