September 2012

20th anniversary of Senior Poets Laureate poetry competitions

3--The Diploemat


Folsom, California


Boma stela casa poca timbo
my aunt said, and green corn grew
where she placed her withered feet.
Others thought she was old and crazy,

but I knew she was a witch from the start.
I was fascinated by her gift of tongues;
she talked to roots and berries by the hour,
and they sang back to her.

One summer day by the barn,
she fell down and started kicking.
“Another fit,” my father grunted—but I had seen
her earlier, communing with spiders,
and knew she was just casting a spell.

That night the sky grew shimmering trees
and deep voices split the dark.
Cyclones touched down, hundreds died,
but we were safe. “Thank God,” my mother said,
little knowing she had a sorceress to thank.

Years went away, and I left for war
with the forces of evil. She gave me an amulet
to keep me from harm, an enchanted diamond
mined from a broken fruit jar.

When I returned
I found her in a tin shack, thin-boned
and tallowy, dying with no one
to admire her magic.

That night I sat beside her as she slept,
her seamed face softened by candle light,
and at midnight, ten thousand stately spiders
came down and wrapped her in gauze,
and carried her webbed spirit away.

William Childress, MFA, 79, shown on dust jacket of his 1986 collection of poems Burning the Years and Lobo, has led a successful multi-genre writing life that includes poet/paratrooper in Korea, songwriter/musician, author, teacher, magazine writer, National Geographic editor, and columnist whose Out of the Ozarks column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch< was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He was a sharecropper and cotton-picker between ages 8 and 18.

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