Once a week I would go
next door with my brother in tow
to visit Mrs. Gentry.
Every week she would open her door,
And motion us inside.
She was a quiet one, saying very little to me,
But I knew what chores needed to be done.
I would go out the back door
with the old wooden bucket in hand,
and lower the bucket down slowly,
she didn’t like it going too quickly,
afraid it would splash and slip out of the knot
that held it fast.
I was twelve, perfectly happy to do good for my neighbor.
Ten bucketfuls were all I could draw up,
Because the wooden tank next to her kitchen door was limited,
And it didn’t take long to fill it to the brim.
Then I went to a small keg at the corner of the house,
To get two gallons of special water,
Used sometimes for tea but mostly for washing her hair.
She claimed rainwater was the softest of all,
And I was convinced she was right.
Her dark hair, sprinkled with gray, was shiny and soft, and hung almost to her shoes.
She would brush it carefully and braid it
And tuck it under her hat.
I guess I wasn’t very alert because my brother
Got cookies and milk or some kind of treat and I was jealous.
I finally realized I wasn’t made to sit for very long.
I got to get the water from her well and the rain water.
She told him stories and showed him pictures with a viewer,
One of those special machines that made the pictures appear larger.
But I didn’t sit still long enough for her to show me pictures.
I was out and about in the real world,
Chasing crawdads and climbing trees.
August 23, 2017