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April Comes to Shreveport

Not like young folk—manic kids or feverish teenagers—
but old women, the ones I knew back when I wasn’t one.
Great-Aunt Millie, “the pretty sister,” my grandmother sniffed.
Sly-eyed, secrets pushing to sprout from her tight-lipped smile,
her cheek to my kiss a pollen-dusted rose.
Or my best friend’s thin too-friendly Aunt Irene,
teeth stained red (her lipstick wandered),
whose fingertips, new-growth tendrils of jessamine,
grazed our arms if we got too close.

Or the ones whose names I’ve long forgotten—
cousins twice, thrice, who knows how many times removed—
who never missed reunions at Antioch Baptist Church.
Dressed to the nines in sky blue, peach, mint green, lilac,
hair spun and sprayed into fine and fluffy clouds,
they won all the door prizes: Oldest Descendent,
Traveled Farthest, Perfect Attendance.
Chatting among themselves, notes rising, falling,
depending on whether or not they wanted you to hear.
Tearing up generously, equally, at drooling babies
or toppled headstones in the gone-to-wild graveyard.

I picture them rooted, both garden and gardeners,
pruning, feeding, clawing up weeds in a fury.
Their perfume reeled me in.
Arms strong from the hoe—how else to explain such force?—
squeezed me to stalk-stiff corset or peony-cushioned bosom.
They weren’t about to let go.


Ashley Mace Havird

Ashley Mace Havird, the current Poet Laureate of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, has published three collections of poems, including The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014), which won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals including Shenandoah, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. Her novel, Lightningstruck (Mercer University Press, 2016), won the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award. Visit her at