Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2 poems by author, poet, columnist, and teacher Donna Pauley

Born in a rural hamlet of 200 in deep East Texas, Donna Cozart Pauley grew up with a widely extended family that included ten grandparents, storytellers one and all.  She became a storyteller herself, first publishing several stories about her family and her hometown in the Houston Chronicle’s Texas magazine.  These included “A Nocturnal Visit,” “No Kind of Name to Wear,” and “Dinner of Their Discontent,” culminating in a cover story titled “Death of an Ancestor” about her nineteen-year-old great-great-great-great-great Uncle Henderson Cozart who was killed in the Goliad Massacre during the Texas Revolution, thus bringing her family to Texas to claim the land grant he earned with his death.  She has also published several poems, including first-place entries in Bayousphere and Marrow, and is now a weekly columnist for The Alvin Sun writing “Views from the Left.” 
            A high school English teacher, who was voted District Teacher of the Year and runner-up for Regional Teacher of the Year in the Houston area, Donna is currently head of the English Department at Alvin High School and teaches Advanced Writing in the evenings for the University of Houston.  She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature.
            Donna Cozart Pauley lives on the Texas coast with her husband Mark; sons Corey and Cody; dogs Chaucer and Sammy; cats Boudreaux, Thomas Lafayette, and Eula Mae; a sneaky raccoon who likes to steal cat food from the bowls on her front porch; and a mysterious hawk who keeps watch on her roof.

Donna Pauley will be a featured poet at the FPL Poetry Series reading on Wednesday, July 18th at 7pm.

The Wyf of Bath

“Her hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
Ful streite y-teyed, and shoos ful moiste and newe
Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe
She was a worthy woman al hir lyve…”

Big Mama
flaming red hair curling close to her head
scarlet lipstick         stark against her pale freckled skin
wire frames circling merry blue eyes
in a round face atop a short neck
rolls of fat almost obscuring her Sunday-go-to-meeting pearls 
wide of hip 
              she was as round as she was t
her chubby fingers and toes accented
with Avon’s siren-red nail polish
she knew all the remedies for love’s mischances
          was well-versed in that old song and dance
her first husband
forty-four years to her fifteen on nuptial day
offered her pappy two mules for her hand
          a fine price for a dirt-poor farmer in Brushy Bottom
in a faded sepia-tinted photo
          little Mattie
          a plump schoolgirl
          with a sad smile on her face
          a giant bow on the side of her head
sits by her new spouse
          graying hair pomaded slick to his skull
          a handlebar mustache tickling his stern lip
          shirt buttoned tight to his brown neck

husband number four is newly dead
          buried in the Timpson cemetery
                    under a cool granite stone
a new four-door Pontiac
purchased with life insurance proceeds
sits outside her corner grocery store
a small wood-slatted building with fresh white paint
precariously resting on cement blocks
                              one lone red gas pump out front
my siblings and I love to go to Big Mama’s store
                    on Saturday afternoons
one entire side of the second aisle
jam-packed with candy of every variety
all of my favorites
          bright pink peanut patties
                    foot-long, thick peppermint sticks
                              candy cigarettes we hold between our
                              index and middle fingers just like Granddaddy
a Big Red or chocolate Yoo-Hoo to wash the sugar down

                    her daughter, our grandmother,
          red-headed and freckled as well
finds her one April morning
                                        dead on the floor
the customers fall away
s  c  a  t  t  e  r  e  d   like the autumn leaves
now that Miss Mattie no longer
mans the antique cash register or
holds court in her rocking chair at the front
          trading stories     belly laughing     chewing the fat
the old store surrenders to somber ruin as
pushy weeds crowd the front steps
paint peels revealing weathered boards beneath
a stray Ruby Red from her neighbor’s coop
          aloose from her Chaunticleer
                    scratches and pecks at the iron-rich dirt
the screen door hangs from one loose hinge
ready to give up the ghost
and join her in the Timpson cemetery
          a solitary stone
          now resting by her first husband
                    under his thumb for eternity

many years later
I will meet Big Mama again
in my senior English class
          on the illuminated pages of
                    Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Harm Junior

                              Black hair slicked down for church
                              the scent of Old Spice haloes his head.
                              Long, narrow feet are stuffed into
pointy-toed cowboy boots.
                              Western shirt buttons tight
                              to the burnt umber of his neck,
                              as nicotine-stained fingers tap
                              on the Baptist hymnal in his lap.
                              The chorus of I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
                              floats in the air around the congregation.
                              Sitting squashed between me
                              and my big sister
                              in the third pew on the left,
                              his Choctaw-dark eyes
                              peer at a slight figure in front of us.
                              He had forgotten how to whisper
                              years before I was born.
                              “See that gal up yonder with
                              the coal-black hair?  It’s dyed
                              that color.  When she turns ‘round,
                              she looks ‘bout like a prune.”
                              The dried fruit turns to glare
                              as sharp elbows hit him
in tandem from both sides.
We have perfected our technique.
His ribs are quilted with
granddaughter-wrought bruises.

                                                  Donna Cozart Pauley

More poems by Donna Cozart Pauley:

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