Five Poems

by Shannon Amidon

Author's note: These five poems are from the second section of the manuscript "Wish for an Unknown Color," which tells the story of a crime of passion that takes place in the piney hills of North Louisiana. Another group is forthcoming in Willow Springs.

Partial Letter Found in a Hymnal by Sheriff Epp’s Daughter, age 12 Friendship Methodist Church, Three Weeks After the Funeral

Just because I let you touch me like a husband today
does not mean you ever will again. When the hail
thrashed your shoulders and rain painted your shirt to them,

I took pity, invited you in from your work
in my garden. Though I opened the door to you
with no one else home and only weather for witness,

hear me: I give you no false hope that this winter
you will sip my homemade wine or rest your boots
under the red oak table fashioned

for me as a wedding gift. You mean only
that I am the same girl I have been when
I’ve felt alone and frightened of the dark –

Before the Funeral

In my dream everyone who knows the story
has a part. One drags your body to the river’s edge.
Another smears blood into the splintering floor,
wild to clean. Someone else remembers the brain matter sprayed,
the sticky crowbar in the hollow center of the salt mine, and runs
to fetch it. But you, you only smile at me offering no endearments
or consolations. You open your milky eyes, vacant blue irises
covered with new death, and say nothing. Even in my dream
you do not forgive us. We leave you like animals, no prayers
or gentle closing of your lids. When we think of you, we cannot pray
or hum a single note. A black hate blossoms in our hearts for a world
without your sweet breath. The air around your body breaks our lungs.
I wake just in time to guide our children down their first fatherless road,
each tightly griping a soft lock of your hair.

First Letter to Opal

I have been drunk for many days and now I doubt
my memory. I know the house I slept in after I did murder
was not a house of love, and the woman I woke cradling was not you.
Her back, a canvas of bruises, seemed to mirror my heart
which I held against her. I wish I could say it was an accident,
or blame it on whiskey from the still behind the poplar grove at home.
But as she shifts her crown under my chin, I know
I owe her favors. Things are foggy now, so I will not mail
this letter ‘til I can really know the worst of it. You would not understand
what I can not defend, so I’ll not ask pardon, only mercy, and a quick death
when it’s time. I do love you, and hope you can forget everything except,
maybe, the one time we danced at the laying by, all that music floating us
and the way your hair fell into my face under the stars.

Opal in Beech Grove Shadows

He doesn’t know I see him
holding the doe’s head
with the same bent elbow
that holds mine. When he grips
her muzzle he uses hands
that eased our firstborn
from my womb. Only now,
instead of yielding hope
he brings an ending, whispers
Go on, you go on, and stop this fight,
as her last breaths wing her out
of this world. When it is done,
he closes her eyes, and sits in the band
of green moss beside her, lingering,
like her fawn across the creek.
Neither can leave her yet.
I’m ashamed, watching this,
though he's told me
how it is to kill, ashamed
to be jealous of this deer’s
proximity to him, the way
she stepped into focus
while everything else blurred.

In Apology for Josiah Walker’s Funeral Dance

Josiah thought he was beautiful when he danced,
because as a child, his mother’s single gesture of love
was to hold his face in her thick hands and tell him so.
Then she beat him. Now a man, he danced without
being asked, and always alone. He danced
in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, near hospital windows,
at Christmas fireworks, and at the fair. At festival time,
the Backwoods Ramblers’ thrumming guitar
and mandolin, Po’ Henry playing the wall,
and the Arcadia baby’s sweet voice, sent him
into trembling ecstasy. Once, out of meanness,
someone urged him to dance shoeless in the snow,
saying he looked graceful that way, like his feet
were angel’s wings. Another season, he managed
to climb to the top of the water tower, and sway and turn,
bending his knees ever so slightly, to the soft
humming of crickets and tree frogs singing for rain.