Secret Trunk

by Amy Trussell

I gave the cross roads snake a decent burial in my refrigerator because I wanted the skin

                        There’s a secret trunk on which kudzu is borne

My cousin drove a shrimp boat in Mobile

                                  we all used to sleep on the houseboat

dreams of electric guitar fish

                   he was deaf and good at fishing                 used to flirt with me in mime

                           We were 16 and he took us to the radio station in

Hattiesburg where we smoked illegal records

Later he got married to the first woman in Alabama to put on a uniform

                       and climb a telephone pole

Grandma was an anchoress          putting up fig preserves in a house of warped windows

She was a grass widow to a straw boss

                  Brushed her waist length hair in the dark then emerged in coiled braids

                            Karo is the secret to a good pecan pie

But to me it’s a death pie because they cart it to your house when someone dies

          Last time I saw Mama Fortson she was fishing by the pond in a big sun bonnet

She caught a snake but we didn’t eat it

                      Daddy only ate rattlesnake with tequila sauce

He got palm readings from descendants of slaves

brother couldn’t go to Mississippi cause he was in the juvey playing a jew’s harp

a few years later Harriet brought a pecan pie on account a him

                    he was smart as a whip              smart as a razor-back clam

From then on I was a cast off twin with the feet of a bombshell

          Held down various jobs to put myself through college

                            fire walking, ironing, dancing, construction site clean-up

my boyfriend Mike wore a bolo tie and a wide-brimmed hat

           he had long hair and he told me he was a snake handler

we played pool next to the wet bar

                     One night he drifted over the center line            of the black river

I never got to kiss him before he died and the pie didn’t set in the sweltering heat

    By now he’s rowed his boat ashore

I have a vision of him as I stare into coals of the pit

                                            He tells me to “draw snakes”

So I take the dead charcoal and do like he tells me

                                  Sometimes I make a tattoo design from the snake

And brush it on my arm pretending like I’m my own baby sister

                 Then I ran into a cobweb and got an idea for a wedding veil

To go with a tear-drop pendant

                                       And a backless dress that you could move forward in

I turn around and everyone is staring at my back

                                           or are they staring at the spirits behind me?

I say “pshaw” and join the reception line

                  Then I coax the spirits from a bottle into my mouth and give it a rest

Its my wedding day and that means everyone else in the tree gets married too

Amy Trussell‘s work has been published in print in The New Orleans Review, The Savannah Literary Journal, The Dixie Phoenix, Mesechabe, Oshun Affrikan Quarterly and others. “Secret Trunk” was a finalist in the 2003 William Faulkner Literary Awards competition. As a dancer and poet, Amy Trussell has performed at Loyola Univerisity and the Spiritual Voodoo Temple in New Orleans, as well in Nashville, Florence, Atlanta, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1997 she founded Front Porch Records, an independent CD label featuring the music of Jake Berry from Florence, Alabama.