for my parents
Why should she want to meet the young preacher waiting in the sitting room?
Paused on the landing, she fears his voice drifting up the stairwell deep and sweet as curing tobacco—pure
Arkansas sharecropper’s son,
reminder of a past her family barely survived. She trembles
when her mother laughs—freely, with abandon, without premeditation—
like a stranger.
She thinks: You won’t change me, Snake-charmer. She pictures him
in the hand-me-down suit he wears each Sunday,
knees prayed to a shine. She imagines
his brown hand resting on a gator-skin Bible rubbed smooth
with witness, the Bible resting on his left thigh dangerously close
to her mother’s best china cup.
Against her better judgment she recalls that his hair is black and full
as Gregory Peck's, that his eyes are brown and deep
as the Mississippi.
She wonders if her hazel eyes would take on that depth
if they were reflected in his.
His words vibrate deep,
accompany her steps like organ music
as she descends the stairs slow as an altar call.
She reaffirms her resolve:
I will not marry a soldier, a farmer, a preacher. I will not be widowed
by war, work, or God.
She pauses on the last step.
Smoothes the taffeta skirt of her best dress. Her crinolines whisper.
Her small, naked hand pales against a sea of deep green—
the color he will mistake her eyes for until the day he dies.