Alice O. Howell
"Old Granny Larkin had age by the toe
and hollering for help.
She just shriveled up a little
every year with them boiling-downs.
Her watery grey eyes
went on and off like a light
depending on the kind o' day it was
Her white hair kind of exploded
off her head - like it had a life all its own
and I mind, as a little girl
watching it raise up and move
this way and that
with her thinkin'.
She was so old not a body 'round
knew about her young times.
She must o' been born old
like a owl.
Anyways, some do recollect
about the sayings.
Story is that Abe Larkin
got hisself killed in the war
and left Granny with nary a hen
nor a chick.
Seems she took off in her sorrows
to the hills nigh on twelve days.
Then one morning sun-up
she come down, her clothes ripped
her face streaked
and her feets all swolled up.
She fainted over by the stream yonder.
They carried her into her house, my ma told
and washed her good and gave her food.
then they set her on a milking stool
in the kitchen with her feets in a tub
o' potioned hot water.
That very time it began.
She took a fit, they say, and started swayin'
and croonin', and her eyes
they rolled right back to the beginning o' time.
She sang and talked in foreign tongues.
The preacher done come
and said it was the devil talking in Egyptian
but they got another
and he said it was the finger of God
on her soul and she was talkin' Greek.
You know, both o' them men
went to their graves long since
After a while, she got to talkin'
we could hear, and she'd say:
( Ma used to repeat it over and over)
she'd say: I have seen the dark faces
of death and trouble, but the egg is yet
full of light, and the generations
will harvest the tears of men
and call them seed - and stuff like that.
They got a body to write them down
after she took the habit
but it was hard, don't you know
to tell when the spells would take her.
Mostly it was every time
she soaked her poor feets
and she had plenty foot trouble.
Sometimes folks on hard times
would go to her in the night
and they'd set in the kitchen
cozy as you please
and she'd put them parboiled
o' hers in the basin o' hot potions
and the sayin's would come.
Some o' them was mighty good sense
about cows' calving
or when not to plant the corn,
but others was
plumb crazy - sounded like black holes
openin' in the earth's memory.
Fair gave folks the willies.
They'd leave her a pie, mind you, or mebbe two bits.
On reg'lar days, Granny Larkin
fussed around the house puttin' up pre-serves,
or she'd take her stick and walk real slow
down the hill to Sam's grocery, same as anybody
carrying an old string bag.
She was real kindly-like. Not
made any fun of her.
She only spoke to me once directly.
My ma had thought I was ailin'.
Granny sat there on a summer's night
starin' into space
her old dress up over her skinny
knotted white and blue legs, and her purple feets
in the basin. She said:
Orpheus is looking for yet another voice.
Well, I don't rightly know the feller
but I reckon he'll have to keep lookin'
cos I don't know nothin' about singin'.
'Course when Granny Larkin passed on
it was all over.
but, you know, lately the kids goes up
where her house use' to stand
and they gathers old mallow hemp
and chaws it
and puts their feets in the stream
they calls it Granny Larkin's Basin
My own Billy says it makes you
feel real good.
I figure they's no harm
though, I tell you, I ain't exactly sure
about the Chandler girl.
Twelve years old, and she took a fit
jest the other day
with her feets in the stream.
Just a act, prob'ly. though
sound a bit like Sybil Chandler
Under the stars of the morning
with a holding of hands,
stranger with stranger,
the dances of wisdom
and the laughter of peace
will rejoice the day !
No Chandler never talked like that
leastways not since I been around."