The McKinley Review Magazine

Uncles

By: Teresa Blackmon | Posted on: Summer 2019

 

We can’t imagine them anything but uncles,

men who rode us on their knees

and called us “Baby” beyond our forties.

We’ve heard the tales, of plowing with mules

and sneaking cigarettes in the corn crib,

of Mama and Papa and Sunday dinners, of hog killings,

of sneaking pies from the pie safe, or sop chocolate for

breakfast and apple jacks for dessert.

We know they wore starched white shirts to school,

to Dogeye, the old one-room schoolhouse,

and we know that Papa traded mules

in the old stables downtown.  

We’ve seen the newspaper photos of four sons

in a world war at the same time.  We know they

served proudly and returned to talk about

Fort Bragg and the medics and the time one brother

ran into the other in a field hospital.

We grow older and see ourselves turning into

them like leaves change in their time to

what they have to be in Autumn.

Each of us has one of their quirks, shaking popcorn

and peanuts in our hands, then aiming for the mouth,

nephews’ hands in pocket, rocking from heel

to toe, and whistling tunes made up through

tobacco middles and cotton rows.

We just can’t imagine that they were little

tots comforted in a mother’s arms, that they

had mumps and measles and broken teenaged hearts,

that they ever lay in bed afraid of the dark or feared

the boogey man who might have hid in the old outhouse—

these brothers who leave us now,

one by one,

like mischievous boys who run to play

and refuse to come when called.

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Teresa Blackmon is a retired English teacher and librarian. She received her MA in English from North Carolina State University and her MLS from North Carolina Central University. She is a lifetime writer whose bucket list is empty but for publishing a chapbook.