“SHOULD YOU GO FIRST AND I REMAIN?” – NOW WHAT IN THE HELL KIND OF BARGAIN IS THAT – FOR EITHER PARTY”

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Sometime during the recent unpleasantness (hospital talk), THAT question raised itself up again and hit me in the eye. No, not THAT question  –  the other one about who is deserving enough to be given a second act and …who should be kicked in the butt and sent home?

But I decided to flirt with the idea of having a chooser, a person who would make  “ethical” choices.  And, although I know there are no ways for ethical “who goes first” choices, I give you a couple things to consider:

How much, if any, goodness has been accumulated by these two simple killers”

     Jily Crews and Ponce de Leon

        Mystery Surrounds Death of Jily Crews,
        said the story, dateline Browntown,
        in the two day old Savannah Morning News.
        But there wasn’t no mystery about it!
        Louise O’Berry, his supposed to be
        daughter in-law (married to Isham Crews
        my step-daddy’s brother) and her Clyde Barrow
        wannabe lover of the day knocked him in the head
        with a lightered knot out in the palmettos
        for thirteen dollars and the rumor of something
        in a Prince Albert can carried in his overalls pocket,
        supposed to be a treasure from  Ponce de Leon’s grave,
        but it was only just a lock of Isham’s curly hair.

                       – Charles Brady

    And here in a poem based on fact, has this Crone (I’m biased) earned sympathy?

              STONE STAIRS

She stands in panic, waiting there
the very top of steep stone stairs,
a cane on forearm, no help to her
as she is frozen by her fears.
That was at first, and then I saw
her ancient, thin and wrinkled claw
clutching rails – it must ache so!
She cries out, Oh, these stairs, so steep!
And then she pauses, then she weeps,
up there, on stone steps where we meet.
She gasps, offended, when I say,
I’ll help you madam, if I may.
She stares, a puzzle fills her face
at this bold stranger’s offered grace,
– then speaks to put me in my place
(with words so cruel, I stand disgraced!)
She says – I quake repeating this –
How can you help me down from high
since you are likewise old…as I?
In all my dreams, she tumbles by.

–  Charles Brady

And, to save my hardest, perhaps most difficult, consideration for last, here are words found in the earliest draft of a poem long ago offered in the first edition of my book, ”The Riceboro Poems, A Biography of Place.” I offer up – a family member! The is the only person I could almost NOT forgive, but, at my Mother’s wish, I did so.  Did I hold out long enough?

                       JIM DRIGGERS    
                                                       
Before he drove off to Florida in his Model T Ford,
he was my grandfather who made split- shingle roofs
and dug wells with his bare hands and long-handled tools.

He would start morning fires then go out to tend the fields.
He would come when an uncle tolled the brass dinner bell
for dinner, or when wild mad dogs frothed in the yard.

He broke land and plowed furrows with matched white mules
as I scored parallel rows of his turned earth for planting.
Seed corn dropped through his fingers was perfectly placed.

But grandfather paused at the end of the row one eve
as the sun cooled and the day’s sweat crusted to salt,
and the night sounds came early to his anxious ear.

With the last rows of the garden grown full and green,
and weeds cleared  from wire fences along the town road,
he oiled and stowed his good steel plows in the tackle barn.

He boxed carpentry tools in the back of his Model T  
and drove off alone for some life he held clear in his head.
From Florida he never again came to work the white mules.

I saw him next when he was old and small, being led
by the hand through woods walked strong in his youth.
My Mother brought him home to fires she kept burning,

but I would not listen to his Florida, nor help him bridge
to the time spent with us in his young plowing days,
because of Grandmother’s shawl and the gray of her eyes

as she rocked on the porch through a long life built of nothing.
She moved herself just to the end of one dirt road and back,
and then to the cemetery for her only comfort through the years.

Now the fields once plowed with matched white mules are at rest,
and the greens of the past and deep wells dug, and shingles split
stretch out like maps to a Florida searched for and never found.

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