Barbara Gabriel, Covenant
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.