Terry England

Two Poems


Grandma takes a rag
from under the sink,
mixes water, white-vinegar
into a pot, sets them to boil
on her kitchen stove.

Steam rises; settles on her skin,
smothers her glasses, sweats
her face. Her gnarled fingers
dunk the rag in water so hot
her knuckles turn
an angry red.

From the kitchen table
I watch her hands snatch,
turn back, slap the rag
into her cast-iron sink;
scrub the inside,
around the drain, down
into its dark, black mouth.

I close my eyes.

The rag has hardly
time to cool.
She slides her fingers
back into the pot.



I still hear
my mother’s voice, Go Quick,

my legs pounding hard
through the orange grove.
I'm covering my mouth, running
behind the DDT truck, its heavy fog
smothered 'round my face.
My playmates wait. Together
we climb the tree, perch
above their backyard. Roman spectators

watching chickens dangle
upside down, wings beating the air.
Their feet tied to the clothesline,
heads searching for their future.
It’s not impossible to explain fear.
The way chickens panic
with their beaks wide open, more
dry-hiss than a scream.

I need to give you this picture:
oleander nattering against the house.
A grandma small and bent,
her blade announcing purpose.
Five terrified birds.
How they stopped blinking,
eyes following the hand
that would hold their neck.
The assembly line.
The slice.
My breath not taken.
Her hands working quick,
serious as salt. Her apron
splattered in mess.
The boys cheering, the girls reaching
to comfort plastic babies. Cradled
whispers. Shhh, It's alright.

Their dog tied to the porch danced and barked.
The brow thick on the executioner's face.
My fingers counting heads.
The dizzy whiteness.

The Frohocks laughed and laughed.
I fell backwards from the tree.


Most all my poetry reflects my southern voice. I was fortunate enough to grow up (Smack-dab in the middle of an orange grove.) an only child with free reign and a large imagination. I don’t know how to write anything other than the slow truth. In time I hope my family, and childhood friends, will forgive me.