No one knew her age, and no one asked.
Her age wasn't something joked about.
Never more than ninety pounds,
she had blue hair and blue eyes
that looked out from the back of deep caves.
She wasn't fond of frivolity.
Fun was a distraction for nervous souls
afraid of God's eventual vengeance.
She stood silent and stared straight
ahead during the hymns in church.
She said things like "over yonder,"
meaning anywhere not within reach.
"Fixin' to" meant getting ready.
Instead of saying "no one would do that,"
she said "wouldn't anybody do that."
She knew "wouldn't nobody" was a double
negative, and evidence of trashiness.
As a girl, she'd pick cotton in north Texas,
dressed in a feed sack, back when
breakfast was a salted cornmeal cake,
lunch was leftover breakfast, and supper
was hominy grits with a raw sliced onion.
The black edges of the cotton bolls
made her fingers bleed till the skin
healed up harder than before. When
a leering, wall-eyed foreman laughed
that, in no time at all, field work
would make her hands look like feet,
she ran off to beauty school in Fort Worth.
Years later, each day before work
at the Bonham Beauty Shop, she ate a Snickers bar
and drank a six-ounce green-bottled Coke.
She made a sandwich for lunch with Rainbo
Bread, a lather of Miracle Whip, and lots
of slick, white rainbowed fat on the ham slabs.
Dinner was a the Hickory Stick cafeteria,
where she gazed at the rows and rows
of single salads, and Jell-Os, and pie slices
before picking the perfect piece of fried
chicken to put on her tray.
At night, in her paid-off, red brick ranch,
she watched Lawrence Welk in black and white.
When, as a kid, I was sent to live with her,
she put heavy-duty, long plastic runners on the high-
traffic carpeted areas like I'd seen in furniture
stores and museums. She covered the couch
and upholstered chairs with clear fitted plastic.
Through the shininess, I could see
the possibility of plush fabric soft to the skin.
I could imagine comfort, but could feel only
a sticky slickness that made me want to sit on the floor.
I was not allowed in her pink-walled
bedroom, with its Degas prints
of backstage ballerinas lacing their slippers.
On her Sears and Roebuck French Provincial dresser,
a plastic troupe of two-inch dancers all en pointe,
their arms extended like wings.
Over the years, Fain Rutherford has worked as a soldier, lawyer, university lecturer, rock-climbing guide, survival instructor and at-home-dad. He currently resides in the shrub steppe desert of central Washington State. His recent poems appear or are scheduled to appear in Right Hand Pointing, Pyrokinection, Poetry Quarterly, Midnight Circus, Halfway Down the Stairs, Furious Gazelle, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, Connotation Press, and Apeiron Review.