The Road to Avery

Uncle Roger is at the bend again,
right on the rim of the road
before Cow Camp runs
into the Newland Tree Farm.
He waves at my car as it drives past,
but he is in the sunset.
I wish I were older, sitting with him,
with no place to go but wherever
my feet take me. It’d be nice
not to have to be home in time
to make dinner. Even though my son’s
well and grown now, engaged to be wed,
long as he lives at home, he’s got to be fed.
The baby is on the way,
and they haven’t even picked out a ring.

I work at the hospital,
so I can keep the rumors at bay.
The Wise family has been in Avery
since its founding, and there are skeletons
buried that, lucky for me, ain’t no one
bothered enough to dig up.
I married into it, ‘course.

Never divorced Jerry, though he drank
as heavy as his daddy before him.
Sure was hard when Ben was younger.
Most mornings, I had to clean the vomit
from the floor and carry his daddy to bed
before little Ben woke up for breakfast.

Jerry’s pa married a real good Christian
lady who went to church with us
every Sunday. We all thought grandpa’d
put the drink away for such a lovely face.

He did, for a time.
She had a real pretty granddaughter,
sweet little angel ‘bout Ben’s age,
kept him outta trouble in the summer.

Well, grandpa couldn’t hold back
that whiskey rage, and his new wife
became his ex wife; so it goes.
And that sweet lil’ girl didn’t visit again
‘til she was all but grown.
Uncle Roger says she’s doin’ fine.

How the town starts talkin’ when she comes for a visit.
Her and her lil’ cousin spend about every day
together, both with their granny’s face—
them big beautiful smiles.
Prettiest things in this town. I reckon
the boys ‘round here know it
Damn near untouchable.
Ain’t ‘cause she lives in Florida. No,
it’s ‘cause she was raised way every girl should.
She ain’t ever had no chains or fences
like Avery folk. She done made up her own rules.

Maria_Hofman_photoMaria Hofman is a recent graduate of Spalding University’s M.F.A. program. She currently lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, and is employed by Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach State College as a writing consultant and English tutor. Maria is an emerging poet with poems featured in small presses and online literary journals.