Through a valley
A creek runs from the spring flooding.
Its water spills over the rocks like flowing glass
That does not shatter,
But splashes and splatters in drops.
Sunlight peers through the branches of a sweet gum tree
Whose limbs once cradled a child.
On the bank,
A wash pot squats over a kindled fire
When clothes need boiling.
A wash woman, she pokes the garments,
Punching them with her stick
Into the cauldron of soapy lye.
The rags bubble clean enough to be scrubbed,
Then rinsed, then stretched over brush to dry.
A wash woman,
Her hands crack, the knuckles knocked raw.
Bleeding from the ridges of the rub board,
They burn from the lye,
And the skin sheds.
Grateful, she’ll grasp with sandpaper claws
The tits of the family cow, and squeeze.
So soft, so warm,
The velvet bag will squirt its milky balm.
In a soothing stream, the gentle cream,
Will ease her feverish palms.
Later, she’ll dream of a sweet gum tree,
Whose branches sway in the breeze,
And she’ll stir in her sleep in the way of a child
Whose cradle is rocked with the leaves.