This poem now published in Shoots & Vines.
Aunt Aggie & The Alligators
by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder
Agathea Longtrail McCumber
(1919 – 2006)
Aunt Aggie never had babies.
She had alligators
that floated under leaf wet logs.
She had a mud brushed shack
beside a slow moving river
downwind of Ocketawna Swamp.
She had boxes of fossils
on her kitchen counters.
Six foot long rattlesnake skins
hung as decorations
on her front porch.
Half Cherokee, half Irish,
Aunt Aggie had one brown eye
and one blue; she had two
bright silver braids that swung
past her ass when she danced.
Aunt Aggie smelled like cypress,
muddy boots and fresh mint tea.
Her hands were as loving tough
as summer collard leaves.
Aunt Aggie had no neighbors.
She had a Smith and Wesson
and ninety six root thick acres.
She had record breaking reptiles
who turned over her trash barrel
in the lapping heat
of those thick cricket nights.
She had the faded yellow skies
of August hurricanes,
not too many water bugs,
mildewed faces growing
on her window screens,
and every knick knack
Woolworth’s ever sold.
Each spring at dawn on the edge
of the riverbank, Aunt Aggie threw
leftovers, buckets of fish guts,
and rotten fruit in mossy holes
where the gators waited
for her to call them by name:
Miss Eula Belle!
Matthew-Mark-Luke and John!
Josiah Ezekiel Twain!
Old Slow Moon!
During mating season she crouched
waist deep in swamp to watch
the big ones make the water dance;
kept a two-by-four held tight in case
the young ones should try to get fresh.
Aunt Aggie had a fit that stormy day
when relatives explained the papers
that came in the mail from The State:
They said maybe she should take
the money they offered.
Find a nice retirement home.
Everybody thought Aunt Aggie
would shoot the lawyers
and the politicians
and the real estate developers
and the police in their fat heads.
Instead, she cut all her silver hair
and let it float down the river
with the moon of the green corn.
They found Aunt Aggie the next week
curled up and brown on her porch.
The biggest gator next to her, eating
fish heads, bread and moldy cheese.
Aunt Aggie’s last supper
before her babies were put to sleep.