Uncle Hiram Brought Us the News

by Sara Pennington

                                                               but even he
could not tell us directly. First—his felt hat hanging
limp in his hands, his eyes pink as bacon—he spoke
of the bird:

        I told you’ns that bird was a sign, a portent,
dead on that porch step, and white as snow, stretched out
there like Jesus. I told you and now it’s come true.

The Widow Dillon had seen it all, had even spoken
with Daddy across her fence, his ax gleaming
above his head, a sorry halo, she thought. She’d
remembered a scripture from church— in a moment,
in a twinkling
—had spoken about the weather,
the dove-gray clouds slipping over the ridge like weasels.

They both had work to get done, the widow and Daddy,
less than an hour before rain would come. If only
she’d been more neighborly. They could’ve had biscuits
and molasses, fresh-churned butter, talk of a sermon
or children, family that’s moved away.
                                                               If only.

She wouldn’t have had to see those two damp spots,
pistol shots, red as poppies, blooming
on Daddy’s back. Nor him slumped over in the road
like a collapsed barn.
                                       My daddy, dying there in the dust
as the bare trees swayed like women shrieking
and shouting at a baptism, or a burial, full of glory.

She wouldn’t have had to watch the bloody eyes
of the devil slowly open to stare Paris Brumfield down.