Anyce Shepherd behind the counter of her tiny country, Rambler’s Rest. She was known to her grandchildren and many others as Mama Shepherd. Her husband was murdered in 1938 when she had five children and was pregnant with the sixth. She had to close the store during World War 2 because she could not stock it; she shocked the neighborhood by holding dances—she needed the income to feed her children.
Dead Men Share
No pickled eggs, no pickled
beans, no leather britches strung
by the stovepipe on the wall,
no onions dried in the sun,
no fatback and crowder peas
steaming in a cracked bowl, no
belly-white cabbages to dig up
from a dark hole in the dark ground.
No ain’t got nothin’ to say
with the sharp tongue they ain’t got
when the wife they don’t have asks,
What troubled that empty mind?
No pot to piss in or step-
ant to piss on, no brush
to pull and tear the whining
daughter-they-don’t-have’s thick hair.
No end of nothings, no day
to end night, not even night
to wake up from, unless what
the worms do not say is true
of the last trump’s blowing, first
softly, not to alarm sleeping
sinners, then loud as the cock,
yes, Jesus, that will rattle
their grave’s own windows, yes, Lord,
and shake open their grave’s doors,
hallelujah, and they will
find their own place on the right
or left hand of God, praised be
the name they cannot say. No
fear of rising through the pale
stalk of the dandelion, of
scattering from its cloudy head
like smoke. No burden to pick
up, no heart to let down, no
skin to feel the touch of day.