Jenny Browne

Indiana Elegy

Inside my grandfather’s house are photographs
hidden behind photographs.  Faces grinning up
at two bodies dangling from the courthouse maple.

He carried no weapon in his trunk
except fishing rods, a rusty can opener,
folding chair and plaid wool blanket.

The poster on his office wall featured a woman
with three breasts; always give the customer
more than he expects.

When the first grandchild is born half-Mexican,
and the next half-Italian, he waits for a third
then says Look, I finally got a good one.  Me, I read

how those not standing close enough to hit
the boys threw rocks and sticks.
The mob let one go.  Later, he said he knew

so many, their lawns, their scuffed black shoes.
A bloody shirt flew over Boots Street.
My grandfather’s house remains

the one I know, and when I wave goodbye to it,
he says, I don’t see why you have to go abroad.
You’re already a broad.

Summer back there still comes on
thick as a chest cold, the water between
me and Kentucky coughing softly.

Neon fish play fiddle above the tavern door.
Inside, faces I might recognize drink beer
the color of river water.  Redeem rising up

from the bottom of every glass bottle.  If I can’t
turn his young gaze, I still have his eyes, pale blue,
and beady as dimes, which do not change, which buy

him nothing now.  In another picture, women drink
martinis from baby food jars, belt their dresses,
and smile without showing their teeth.

Jenny Browne is the author of three collections: At Once, The Second Reason and Dear Stranger. She has received grants in both poetry and creative nonfiction from the James Michener Foundation, the Texas Writers League and The National Endowment for the Arts. New poems and essays have recently appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, and Pleiades. She lives in San Antonio, Texas and teaches at Trinity University.
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