Sometimes it only took a single word,
just a look if they had drunk enough.
A hawkbill knife would flash, sometimes a gun.
The doctor closed their eyes and it was done.
That’s when they’d come for me so I would walk
until I found some men out in a yard
smoking cigarettes, looking at the ground,
the women in the house with the dead man’s wife.
They’d have him laid out on a cooling board,
looking like he’d passed out drunk, but then
you saw the shirt dyed crimson with his blood,
a face as white as August cotton bolls.
We’d strip the body first. The younger girls
who hadn’t known a man were curious.
They might giggle, childish as the men
who’d brought us here with their little boy games.
As soon as I could get him shaved I’d leave
and wouldn’t come back until a few weeks passed.
That’s when she’d need the hugs, the sugared words,
some extra help with supper and the kids.
By then she’d have an inkling, not so much
of what had happened but what was to come.
By then she’d know that she would grow old young.
By then she’d know her man was the lucky one.