Read + Write Poetry: 22 April 2022


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The Story Teller
By Leonard Trawick

I heard a man ran off one time with Aunt Rennie Dejonnit’s money,

But without Aunt Rennie;

And I heard she had sued the President of the First National Bank,

Won, and paid the rest of her life for it.

But as long as I can remember, she lived

In a shack out on the Troy highway, crazy as a bat,

Took in washing, and propagated an endless flock

Of fool stories I never could brush out of my mind.

She used to tell about the time Joe said to Amarilly,

“You take this butcher knife and wait at the front door,

And I’ll take this ice pick and wait at the back door,

And you call out, ‘Run, Mooney—Joe’s after you!’

And one of us’ll be sure to get him.”

Well, Mooney ran out the back door,

And when the people came, Joe said “Amarilly done it.”

And the judge said, “Electric chair, Amarilly.”

But if you go by that place on a dark night

You can hear a voice saying over and over,

“Joe done it. Joe done it.”

And I remember her telling about the old woman

Who was always chasing after a young man,

And the young folks told her, “Sit up on this tin roof

All night naked under a wet sheet,

And you’ll win your young man soon in the morning.”

So there she squatted like a cold storage hen,

Shivering and moaning, “I’ll win me a young man,

Soon in the morning.”

But the only young man she won was the undertaker.

And sometimes, just before daylight,

You can still hear her moaning, “Soon in the morning,

I’ll win me a young man soon in the morning.”

And Aunt Rennie used to tell about a parrot

A woman kept in a cage over her bureau,

And every time the woman undressed,

That parrot would screech out,

“I sees your bohunkus, ’deed I do!”

And the woman got so mad, she said,

“Next time you say that, I’m going to wring your neck

And throw your head on the compost pile.”

So the next time the woman undressed,

Sure enough, the parrot screeched out,

“I sees your bohunkus, ’deed I do!”

So the woman wrung his neck

And threw his head on the compost pile,

’Deed she did.

And about that time they killed a rooster to serve the preacher;

They wrung the rooster’s neck and threw his head

On the compost pile right next to the parrot’s head,

And the parrot’s head looked over at the rooster’s head

And cocked his eye kind of quizzical and said,

“Whose bohunkus did you see?”

Aunt Rennie Dejonnit, wherever you are—

Nothing tells where your shack used to stand

But two live oaks and a clump of chinaberry trees.

But I can still hear your old cracked voice

Insinuating those beggar-lice stories of yours.

The Story Teller by Leonard Trawick, from A 24-Hour Cotillion: Selected Poems. Dos Madres Press. 2016. Used by permission of the author.

About the Author

Before retirement Leonard Trawick taught English and creative writing at Columbia University and at Cleveland State University, where for some twenty years he edited the poetry books published by the CSU Poetry Center. His own poems have appeared in a number of magazines including Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Laurel Review, Poetry, Quarterly West, and The Sewanee Review. Beastmorfs, a collection of his concrete poems, was published in 1992 by the CSU Poetry Center; and his selected poems, A 24-Hour Cotillion, appeared in 2016 from Dos Madres Press.

Write a Poem

These words appeared in poetry published this year. Write a poem on one or more of them:

princeling, scurf, escarpment, chaparral, lachryphagy, horripilate.

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