(where do popsickles go when dey die?)
Or/De Sunflower

Once dere was a small-town Girl.
Who used to run barefoot’d
down shoe-beaten paths
Diggin her toes into warm moist’d sand
up ‘n down country roads…
smilin back sunshine
into de faces’a all de people she’d meet.
 Runnin along sangin a song
so close to Nature
so wild ‘n so gay/so free;
 runnin cross some country field
or standin quietly peerin into a lil stream
ya couldn’t help but love her
so natural it seem’d.
Kinda sturdy built body
 “Dats a healthy big-bon’d young child.”
Old folds’d say.
 I loved’er too.
 Boy, could she run
she idn’t never seem to git tir’d
and even if ya could out run her
 and ya did catch’er
 dere wasn’ nuthin ya could do.

I went walking wid’er 1 day
1’a dem autumn days/ya know
1’a em wen de look’a gold is in de air.
I look’d on wid amazement
 and took notic’d at
   how de trees seem to all know’er
dey (seems to me) would bend over toward’er when we pass
as if showin’er respect—and on de way back up
de wackward sway
ya could hear’em sighin.
De wind TOO used to play wid’er all de time
Makin whirls ‘n swirls round’er/some trees messin at’er skirt.
And when it rain’d a lil where only
de top soil would be damp
she run on ahead
 turning up de wet sand and smellin
 de fresh sweet-smellin’a de dirt.

Everybody loved’er/but her mama most’a all.
She was de oldest
de 1st born/de biggest outta de family’s 6 chilluns
4 girls ‘n 2 boys.
And round de house she was…
She was jes bout priceless.
She jes bout could cook ‘n most do anythin.
Carin fur her lil brothers ‘n sisters/helpin’er mama
wid de cookin/de house work/
   washin n’ sewin
helpin’er daddy a lotta times in de fields.  And on top’a all
dat she still had to go to school.
 And her folks wasn’ mean neither
Dey idn’t mind nobody comin by.
“C’mon in boy and have sumthin to eat.”
Her daddy used to say.
 (But I do know dey had some mean mosquitoes
 round dey house
 and I told’er bout’em too.
  She said dat dey idn’t never mess wid’er.
 And I b’liever’er too.)
And soon as everybody got through eatin
and all de dishes wash’d
she got her-Self a lil stick and we start’d out
 walkin’ barefoot’d down de road together.
I used to love being wid’er most at dis time
cause she would be lookin so pretty den
wid de sunset reflectin off’a her face
and some times she would let me hold’er hand.

During dese walks she used to tell me
many thangs
Bout de money she was savin in a jar
in’er drawer
sometimes it would be bout sumthin she read in a book
or sumthin she saw in some ole magazines
and bout how some day she was gonna have all dem pretty thangs.
She TOO would be a star.  But she never did ask’d me
I never volunteer’d even to say
but to me she already was de biggest star.
De stars dat fill’d de skies at night
never once sparkl’d so bright as she did.
Even de moon took ‘vantage’ a dis natural
and would rise a lil nearer to’er
each night dat it would come out.

We used to walk ‘n talk…jes
holdin hands and laughin in de evening breeze.
She hadda way bout’er-Self dat made
walkin fun.
Some time we walk’d till de sun was startin to go down
den she was ready to start back
cause dats de way her mama was.  But on de way back home
she used to run after lightning bugs
and if she caught some
she would gib’em to me as a gift
and together we watch’em light up de darkness
in my hands.
I ain’ never furgot how she had me
runnin off at de mouth bout every thang
under de sun.
She could make ya tell on ya-Self if ya idn’t watch’er
I ‘member how I told’er dat I loved’er
moe den de number’a stars out on a clear winter night
way moe den de lightin bugs shine.
But all’a dem thangs I only said to’er  in my mind.
I was jes turning 16 den
and she was 14
and I know’d dat we still had a lotta time.

I won’t never furgit de time she invit’d me over dey house fur supper.
It was on a Sunday and dey had
fried chicken and biscuits and rice ‘n gravy and…
and she cook’d de whole dinner dat day.
And I couldn’t hardly eat (after messin over grace)
cause dey was all lookin rat in my mouth.
Den’er daddy said:
“Gon on boy and eat.  Ya ain’ no stranger hea.  Ya done ete hea before.”
Everybody start’d laughin.
And I laugh’d too.  And from dat day on we was all right together.
Her daddy was a real good man.

I know some moe good times we used to have
was when we went to school.
We liv’d cross’d de field from dem
and I used to hurry up every morning and be over dere
at dey door by de time she was ready to go.
I lov’d walkin to school wid’er too.
Everybody loved’er.  Ya jes couldn’ help but care.
Somehow it all seem’d so natural.
Nature’s Baby, she was.
 And it be doin dese times
in de morning when de dew be still on de ground
dat’er legs would be all shiny wid grass to hide de ash
and my face would be all shiny too
fur the same reasons.
A lotta times we would meet other chilluns on dey way to school
dey all be shinin too.
But I hat’d when somebody else could so easy
break into our little world.

How always somebody or some thang could jes barge in
on use and demand’er time ‘n her ‘tention
de same life gib’in thangs dat she was jus a minute ago gib’in me.
Now I had to share’er.
When I wont’d ‘n need’d every minute’a er fur my-Self.
Dis was de very morning I had planned on tellin’er sumthin special.
But I know what it was, she was too fulla life.  She had
too much’a life mysteries runnin through’er blood.
Too much life to gib.
And jes like me
everybody ‘n every thang wont’d moe life.

And sometimes I swear I b’lieved
she know’d how deep I felt
cause she would some times smile at me
like to say:  “Aww, C’mon, it’s all right—ain’ no need fur ya to be soar’d.
But I was soar’d though.
It idn’t last long though.
cuase soon we be gittin outta school
and on our way home
and I’d have’er all by my-Self again.
Some times we’d slip over to dat fat lady—Miss Amey’s paucun trees
and we’d git up all de paucuns dat we could tote
and run.

And it wasn’ta long while after it seem’d dat a big change took over her
and like nuthin she start’d actin all grown up.
Maybe it was in years
but it seem’d to come bout so fast
next thang I know’d I was standin
face to face wid a grown woman.
And she wasn’ even outta her teens yet.
But she had me growin now.
Tryin hard to catch up to’er.
Still de beauty’a it was dat no matter what
 she never lost to Nature.

1 day late 1 warm summer
we stood together on dis lil wooden bridge
dat lay straddl’d a lil stream.
I b’lieve’er daddy was de 1 to fix it de last time it was washed out.
It was den and dere
while I stood dere holdin her hands
she tore me outta my dream world
shook me
and hand’d me over into de hands’a reality.

“Um gonna leave hea soon…”

I thought I heard’er say.
And though I wasn’t but 3 breaths way from’er
I jes refus’d to understand what she was sayin.

“I wont’d cha to be de 1st to know…
I ain’ even told daddy’nem yet cause I know
mama ain’ gon understand.
But I wont’d cha to know cause ya kin help me to decide…
Um goin to de City up north…
And when I make good um ah
save up my money
and um ah send fur ya.  And ya kin find ya a job too.

And we kin still do all’a dem
thangs dat we talk’d about ‘n plann’d.

Somehow somebody some thang
had come ‘tween us.
Come long to destroy all’a our dreams.  To gib her new schemes.

“Tell me what shoulda do
ya know I loves ya…”
 She kiss’d me.
“We godda aunt/my momma oldest sister
live up dere and she said dere ain’ nuthin
hea fur me…and if ever I wont’d to come…”

I jes reach’d out an grabb’d er and pull’d er to me and
held on to’er real tight fur dear life.
And I stood dere and jes lied to’er.
While still lookin dead at de sun
I told’er, “Whatever ya won’t Peaches is all right wid me.”
I lied.  Lawd knows I lied.

She start’d squeezing me real tight now
and I could feel’er joy ‘n happiness even through’er tears.
“O um so glad I’m happy now.
To hurt’cha woulda been moe den I
could stand…and I loves ya so…I know’d dat’cha would understand.”
 She kiss’d me.
I could taste a salty coolness from’er tears.

I turn’t my face away (de sun had put tears in my eyes)
and I look’d down into de lil stream.
I watch’d it spellbound—de water runnin pass
and thought how simple life must be fur a lil stream
all it godda do is flow.

“Um ah tell mama’nem tonite…”
She had been talking all de while.
And I was thankin maybe if’er mama ‘n daddy
won’t let’er go…
“What’cha thankin bout?”
She put’er hands up and turn’t my face towards hers and asked.
1 part’a me start’d screamin out!
I on’t won’t cha to go Peaches…I loves ya too much
ya on’t godda go way up dere Baby/ya already a star.
We got all’a de life in de whole world rat hea
rat ‘tween me ‘n ya/we already got happiness.
Whata bout’cha folks and all/ya wanna go and hurt dem too.
Everybody hea needs ya Peaches…life jes ain’ gon be de same
wid’out cha Baby…
I ain’ gon let’cha go nowhere…I refuse to let’cha leave me hea…
Please stay.  And it ain’ jes fur me Peaches…dey gon
Try ‘n change’cha up dere Baby…dey gon wanna make ya wear
But de other part’a me said:

“We betta be startin back now” I told’er.
She grabb’d hold’a my arm
and I tri’d all I could to keep
up a smile
but I thank she musta know’d dat
I was sad.
But she idn’t say nuthin bout it
De stars was out
by de time we got to’er house
and though dey all wont’d me to
I jes couldn’ stay.
I told’er I’d see’er on de morrow.

It wasn’ too long after dat
‘fore she was ready to go.
A small-town Girl goin up north.

I ‘member when she 1st start’d school
I watch’d er while she was growin up.
De walks dat we used to take together/dem talks we’d have bout
De times we used to go pickin blackberries together
down de track.
My mind kept on remindin me
memories keep on hauntin me…
How bout de time she let’cha rub’er legs
and ya couldn’ hardly go to sleep all night long.
‘Member de time dat’cha got sick wid de flu and
she went to town and bought’cha a Git-Well card
and den brought’cha a bunch’a furgit-me-nots she pick’d
from outta de field y’all used to play in.
And whata bout de time ya was showin out
in front’a her (tryin to out do dem other boys/y’all tryin
to walk dat limb’a dat oak tree)
and ya mess’d round, fell, and skinn’d cha left knee.
Ya know how bad’cha wont’d to cry dat day don’t cha
but all’a dem folks was lookin and so was
Ya still carryin dem scars too.
And all’s dem thangs ya used to talk to ya-Self bout
when ya got home every night.
Fool!  ya oughta told’er how much’cha
loves her
dat’cha ain’ gon never let’er go!
Ya a big ole fool, boy.
She woulda stay’d if ya hadda ask’d her to
she woulda done anything fur ya/anything ya ask’d
and ya know dat.

De bus left at 10 O’clock in de morning.
It pull’d out down dat long ‘n windin country road
leavin dust behind so far as de eye could see.
‘Nough dust dat it seem like it woulda cover’d de sun.
I hat’d dat bus.  I hat’d dat bus driver.
Dey both was takin Peaches away.
And I look’d at dat dust until it was all
and when it had all clear’d dat bus was gone too.
All I could see was de long dirt road.

All de folks round hea kin talk about now is all de wonderful thangs
 she used to do.
Dey miss de sunshine dat she would smile back at’em
de sound’a her laughter being carri’d on de wind
her footprints embedd’d in de wet sand.
And I know de birds who used to love to sang fur’er
now what melancholy songs.
And de trees
so still now,
de wind seems to don’t even care no moe.
I stop by’er house most times
and though it been way over 2 months now
her folks keep sayin dey ‘pectin some news form’er soon.
I guess dey all miss’er so much TOO
but don’t nobody miss’er ½ much as I do.
I kin tell dat everybody ‘n every thang lack’er
though don’t nobody ever come rat out and admit it though.
De whole world seems totally at a lost
Now when I walk barefoot’d down de road
don’t nothing seem de same no moe.
Even Nature her-Self seem outta rhyme.
“Den let the whole world crumble,” I cried to de trees.
“Let de heavens come tumbling down!”
I cried out at de wind.
My barefoot’d Girl
done left dis hea small town.
She ain’ rarely found no moe.
Den I thought to my-Self:
Why is it dat every where some beautiful Flower is found
somebody always come long and wanna
pick it?