Girl Jamie’s great grandmother was a tiny lady
with tiny cupboards in a tiny house
that leaned slightly down the hill
as if the valley had something to say
but was whispering it over and over
and the house was just on the cusp of hearing it.
Perhaps the murmuring of the creek
kept the story or gossip from being quite clear.
When she asked sweetly and opened her eyes
just a bit wider, Girl Jamie coaxed her great granny
into making chocolate pudding just for her
and then letting her eat it right straight from the cooking.
The warm cocoa taste was an angel in the mouth
and Girl Jamie couldn’t even cuss her daddy
for a day after eating it.
Great Granny spooned it warm
into tiny cut glass dishes and let a teaspoon
be already holding the first steamy bite.
Great Granny always narrowed her eyes
as she watched Girl Jamie swallow
and swallow again and ting the spoon
against the glass until there was no more pudding
but the brown shadow of a pudding that used to be.
When Girl Jamie went back to the porch
as she always did, Great Granny ran her finger
around the dish and licked it clean like a cat would.
She tasted the chocolate and the remnants
of youth. She opened her kitchen window
above the sink and went as a woodpecker
in a quick a loop around the house
before she came in to wash the pudding pot.
Girl Jamie narrowed her eyes at a black dropped feather.
*These poems are part of a series that centers around “Bad Jamie” – a pill addict in southern Appalachia—his daughter Girl Jamie, and various other family members. As family folklore and environment intersect in these poems, dead grandmothers turn to woodpeckers, women inherit the ability to live as mountain lions, and Bad Jamie is a black hole the other characters try to resist falling into.