Joyce Brown, Broken

Joyce Brown

Pearl cries at the sight of us.
“I thought you was mad at me.”
A battered soul, ninety-nine,
finally downed with a broken hip,
finally driven to dutiful daughter’s bed,
homesick for a hill two miles away.

“It’s the prettiest place.
If Arville hadn’t dragged
them old camp shacks
down there for our house,
if we’d just a had a nice house
on it. But we didn’t starve.
We always ate good and we
always shared with everbody.”

Margie asks if we
could use a few cucumbers
and a head of cabbage. We
could. Margie goes to the
garden and cuts the freshest for us,
her kitchen laden with harvest.
“We always shared,” Pearl says.

“The roof started leaking
where them two camp houses
was put together. And we paid
the man five hundred dollars
to fix it. But where he walked
he musta broke in the roof
so we had to move my bed
into the other side with the table
and the living room. And there ain’t
hardly any room to move around
with everthing on one side.
And still I’d rather be up there
right this minute than sitting here
in Margie’s house. And I don’t reckon
I’ll ever get to go back home.”

Pearl’s legs are wrapped in white,
her eyes shut tight against the light
of a well-windowed house. Her pieced
together home of timber shacks,
her own dark shelter,
shines bright in her heart.

Author’s Comment: Sometimes we find poetry by listening. In this case, an old woman’s longing for her mountain home seemed to me a sort of sorrowful poem. All I had to do was capture the words and provide some context without destroying the beauty of Pearl’s words.

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