For Pops

By Lennée Reid

He tells me stories
Tales from the deep south
Bout how a raccoon
Can whip a dog in the water

I learn how to fell a tree
So it lands just right
I listen to his mama
Cook 3 meals a day for 8
May be that’s why he feels so special
When you make him something little
Like a sandwich

I hear the sound of sitting on the porch
With a rifle
I hear his heartbeat
And a drop of sweat trickle off his brow

I hear a murder of Jim Crows
Pass over the family home
Sisters in the house
Threshold blessed with his own
Blood toil and prayers

He leads me to a field of memories
Plowing behind a mule at 8
We go to cane mills
Juicing winter sweetness
Millstone rolls with the clop of a work horse

I listen to the weight of a 65 pound
Basket of cotton on the back of a child
Who counts pennies for bullets and shot
To hunt some rabbits or quail for supper
Not a deer
He never could bring himself to kill one

I listen to these stories
From the one person who gave me safety
When I was with child
And needed protection from the world
A world whose cruelty he knows too well

He was good at security with his
Strong black 6 foot 4 body
That escaped the draft
But has fought battles of his own
I know where 3 boys raised and sent to college
Seen on TV in athletics

I know from whence they came
Great grand children of
Two preachers children
Raised on 40 acres and a mule
In Mississippi

For a few that tale is true
Walnut and peach trees
ornbread and poke salad
BBQ and fish fries runs in their veins

He is the great migration
From southern farm to northern factory
I’ve learned a person passes out
When their arm is mangled in a meat grinder
Up to here

I’ve heard the pain of living a long life
Filled to the brim with dead loved ones
He knows more hurt and dead people
Than friends I could name

He speaks to me of people he names
HIs cousin stabbed 13 times
By her grandson
And how at 80 she’s still living

People drowned in the Mississippi
Killed in the war
Nephews in and out of prison
For no good reason

People who died on his watch at work
Died in his home
His own brother
He says, “I worked every day
Before work there was work
And after work there was work”

Pops tells me stories
Tales from the deep south
Scenes of raccoons
Whipping dogs in the water
And trees felled just right