Barbara Gabriel, Covenant

Barbara Gabriel

Willie Delia married for love
and a gold ring that whispered her name
nights when the man beside her did not.
No prophet, she knows what comes, comes.
Still, she summons deserter spirits
as stars fade, demanding Why?

Eleven born of red clay
cotton and suffering sufficient
hands pricked bloody by a King.
A fair day: food for all, no rain
Not one lost to death, grim and tricksy.
No single child gone mean as hailstones.

Prideful man rode rail, racing
into vast dust bowl. Behind dry eyes
Willie Delia conjures a voice
to breathe her name, hears nothing, signifying less.
Judgement delivered decades on:
pine box fetched him home, slow, unhurried.

What is a vow but words spoken?
Gold ring clenched by fist.
Jam jar keeps teeth preserved.
Boots made for walking on radio waves,
Willie Delia follows him down
carved stone shouting her name.

Author’s Comment: “Covenant” came from my grandmother’s oral history of a precarious childhood in dire poverty. It reflects measures her single mother took to raise eleven children, fighting to keep the family together and alive. Willie Delia was heroic to me as a child, then as I grew to adulthood, I saw that she bound herself to an idea—this covenant she made— that kept her waiting, growing old alone until she died listening to Nancy Sinatra on the radio, singing a young woman’s power song about the man who did her wrong. That image has stayed with me for forty years.

10 thoughts on “Barbara Gabriel, Covenant

    • Thank you for reading my poem and for sharing your thoughtful comments. P.S. I enjoy your site and am a frequent visitor. Thanks for bringing poetry to the people!

  1. Barbara presented this in a workshop I was teaching, and with a little tinkering, I knew I wanted it for Wild Goose. Wonderful lines throughout. Imagery as strong as Willie Delia herself. I think your Mama’s Mama would be proud.

    • I am hoping to attend another of Scott’s workshops at the Writers Circle next year if I can find my way back to NC. See you then!

  2. Barbara, I don’t know if you will get this post. I was in the second online poetry class you as Kathryn. Heidi was working with you to get a group going for critique ans support. Has that begun? I would like to participate. It said to contact Barbara G. at Wild Goose.

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