She came with her mama, all ringlet curled:
Girl, novice Mama, skimpy bird:
Their gift for our gathering it was after-told:
Naked chicken from a can, cold.
At motel cheap they’d stretched green paper
And change dumped from Mama’s purse
On lumpy bed she bought for a night:
Two, deep-stabbed because of that fight.
Papa didn’t like it, no not one bit,
Didn’t trust it, “They’re out for the money.”
But Mama she took that bit in her teeth:
What money, hah!” she headed the beef.
“The money I work my head to the bone!”
The curl-headed girl, she hid a giggle,
“Oh Papa, that’s fingers,” he fought back a grin
But stormed up his face, a set to his chin.
Its strange, you know, how some folks battle
When there’s love underneath, I mean:
But over a church? A dinner? a love feast?
“We’re going, its final” her lips in a crease.
Words had flown, like sharp objects thrown:
“You’ll go by yourself then, I got no part
In crazy ideas, like the end of the world!”
That night Mama, she slept with her girl.
Next morning before gift of sun-risen light,
Bathed and dressed in the best they owned,
Bags stuffed in that old Buick trunk:
Papa stuffed in his chair, nursing his funk.
He really was worried, he really did place
Daughter and dear wife before his own life.
But he couldn’t back down, never back down
While glued to his seat, glued to a frown.
Pride mastered Papa, for a while, and Mama,
She turned it over, engine purred like a kitten:
Back down the drive, out on the street:
While finger-lets tugged a curl, map by her feet.
She picked it up, unfolded its folds, so many:
Crinkled, wrinkled, rattled and smoothed it
Best as she could: she knew how to read.
“Mama‘s helper my are!” Girl just believed.
One to thread questions, like beads on a string,
But the girl held them back, kept her asking inside...
About food, because they were on their way:
The town of the meeting, a red dot by the bay,
Meant driving so far, black lines on a map:
We been there once when Papa went fishin’
But not the same place, the girl understood;
She couldn’t stop sniffing pictures of food.
“It’s gonna’ be great,” CJ’d whispered at meeting:
“Good stuff, like chicken fried brownish gold,
Dutch apple pie, peach and blackberry cobbler:
Brownies and cookies piled high on platters.”
Did Mama know? I don’t think… girl stole a glance:
Mama praying right under her breath.
It would be okay now, ‘cause when Mama prays
Its asking and hearing, and Mama always obeys.
After that, Mama spoke, her voice whisper soft:
“Your Mama did sin, will you forgive?”
To argue with Papa, speak such horrid things,
To know you bore all, my heart aches the sting.
Though I turned out a decision I still feel is right,
To go to the meeting, for I felt the Lord’s will:
But to fight with your Papa, that’s purely wrong:
Now lets use our words to praise God in song.”
Girl sang thanks for the towns as they came,
When to stop or turn, go back, take a right:
Then sun sliding down, turned in to Seagull Courts,
Flamingo pink announced a refuge of sorts.
“What do you think?” Mama browsed day two;
The aisles seemed confusing, not like at home,
Smells unfamiliar, “We don’t have much time.”
“Mama, looka here, says, WHOLE CHICKEN with lime."
“Hmmm,” Mama mused, “might not be bad.”
“Picture looks nice and container’s Xtra Large,”
Girl nodded hopeful, bobbed her bright locks,
“Mama now, wait, don’t know what it costs.”
“Let’s see, says $4.95, but then there’s this:
Can’t just hand those good ladies a can.
Something to carry on, something to serve,
Something for offering in reserve.”
Mama with girl of ring-tight curls stood, shy:
And their foolish burden: that awful chicken
Rocking unsteady on its throw away tray
Handed over unclothed, except by prayer.
God doesn’t see as man does, he taught us
His ways wind higher, waft up sweeter odors
From the heart He looks on: grace opens wide
For Mamas and Papas and circlets of pride.
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