My Mother's Ghost
The foreman at the glove factory
gave my father a guinea hen
in trade for a fish knife.
Father kept that chicken as a pet
let it roost in the eaves of the tool shed.
At dusk when he walked through the gate
the hen danced in the dust at his feet
like my mother’s ghost after a hard frost.
The night father was laid off from the knife factory
he wrung the guinea’s neck.
We served supper late that night.
I couldn’t eat.
Father ate his bisquits dipped in blond gravy.
He told a story about his favorite hound,
how one night the dog ran off for good.
He never told me he was laid off
that night or any other.
He told me when he slit her neck
the guinea spun in the dust at his feet
splattering blood on my mother’s white washed fence.
When he pushed his chair back from the table
the scraping noise reminded me of a trap door
opening in the floor of an empty barn.