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The Alabama Sharecropper’s Wife

ISSUE:  Autumn 2001

has a name of her own, you know. So?
So ask her what in tarnation she thinks
she’s doing here among the bathers, nudes
reclining, torsos of Venus, costumed odalisques

or who for the love of glory could ever make her
pose against the weathered pine, the mind
behind the camera no doubt sensing likeness
between her face and the wood, plain boards

and parted hair pulled tight to the head,
big ears, wide jaw, chapped lips, the lower
slightly pursed or bitten (or collapsing in
on missing teeth?), when she’s got no idea

what a good model does. And how could she,
there in her homemade dress of cotton print
with open neck to cool the throat, bare feet
working long toes into soft summer dust

as the northern photographer coaches her
Can you just relax? and she mumbles back
I might could or I use to could, whatever trust
he coaxes from her also calling forth a line

between her brows for each of four children
still living, and a fifth, centered over the nose,
for the middle one she lost. It’s all in the Bible
she gave her husband, the marriage, births, deaths

entered in pencil, all but the eyes that knife
right back at him with a look that could mean
You better not use me, you damn Yankee bastard,
or, viewed to a different tune, Why not use me

instead of my sister, as if I don’t see
the three of you sweet on her, you
and your writer friend and
even my husband

whose photo faces hers in yet another book,
which presses, when closed, his lips to her nose,
her mouth to his chin, a mouth that won’t say
I’m only twenty-seven. My name is Annie Mae.


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