Three Poems

Rebecca McPherron

(May 15, 1848 – January 2, 1928, married Wash Chandler and then his brother Morgan, mother of John Morgan Chandler)

Rebels, yes, we were, and proud of it—
Enough to name our dog Jeff Davis. He was a
Black and Tan, a running, singing dog,
Eager at the hunt and given to stray after rabbits. So
Came the famous day I walked the hills and
Called “Jeff Davis, Jeff Davis” until I walked smack into
A Yankee patrol. “He’s a dog,” I said. “So he is,” said they.

My family called me Aunt Becky. Aunt to my own
Children I was, though I outlived all four,
Put both brother husbands in the grave. Another story,
How I came to live in the Thompson homeplace because
Eliza Belle my daughter-in-law died and I was left
Raising her boys. I failed with Friendless, her first-born
Ruined by disease and named for loss. We chose
Our names and our causes badly. Dog and boy gone.
Now the dog in our house was named Death.

Eliza Belle Thompson

(August 28, 1874 – September 16, 1901, married John Morgan Chandler, August 29, 1889)

Elizabeth birthed the Baptist, but I am only
Liza, though a Baptist, so I named my second born
Ivory John, that he might be rare and remember
Zacharias’s son, that man who immersed the Savior
And lost his head to a frightened governor.

But I called my first son Friendless to remind me
Every time I speak his name that in this
Lonely world we have no friend save the
Lord Jesus who knows our names, numbers our
Every hair, knows the fall of the sparrow.

Thurston, my third, I named for strength, my
Hope for him though my own days were numbered.
Only boys I birthed. My sister says so many boys
Means another war is coming. “Hush!” I cry.
“Pray you may be wrong.” Fanny has no children or
She would not put a name to such a thing while
Our deacons wear hoods and cinch their saddles to our
Nightmares, armed with hatred, rope, and torches.

Ellen Tingle

(December 1857—sometime after 1884, married Ben F. Lusby, a Civil War veteran)

Except I may not be Ellen or even Ella. I am as
Likely to be Nancy, Martha, or Harriette. I was born in
Lusby’s Mill or maybe on Gullion’s Branch.
Eventually I married and had six—or seven—children.
Not even they can remember my given name.

They’ve forgotten how I looked, how I smelled, how
I held them against my heart and kissed away their fears.
No, surely once I tingled in Ben Lusby’s blood.
Give me that. Surely I was more than a yearning
Lonely girl to nurse his war wounds. I wish I had been
Equal to their needs. No one remembers how I died.

—Sherry Chandler, Paris, KY