Chloe Whigham

My Cousins by the Creek

I was five, maybe six 
At a yearly family gathering at the border between
Mississippi and Alabama, where my family stomped around.

My Papa’s house stood on a tough, brown hill 
With a clear creek moving gently along beside it 
The gray clay at the top was like Playdough in my little palms.

My cousins were teenagers back then,
Not married adults with children. 
No Bible thumping their babies, no whoopings, just kids. 

Jesse was covered in acne, Justin didn’t have a mustache ,
Mary Margret could never get her eyeliner even on both eyelids,
And Cece didn’t run through a pack of cigarettes like her dad.

I was not allowed to swim in the creek,
Make castles out of clay or dance with water bugs, 
Without my teenage cousins keeping an eye on me. 

I begged Justin, my favorite of the bunch, to come with me,
But he and Mary Margeret were flushed, stumbling and drunk
Playing beer pong. 

Nicki Minaj’s “Roman’s Revenge” blasted from Mary Margeret’s phone
And she declared, “This is my song when I’m messed up!” 
That day I learned my cousins were their fathers

And I thought, maybe I’ll become mine someday. 
But I would rather be my mom. 

River of the Houma, a Song

Along the mouth of the River
You may know as Red

Red like the squirming crawfish
Simmering on hot stones

Red like a gasping trout’s gums
Whose body will become dinner

Red like blood, blood that continues to run
The blood from Angola, like blood of the harvesters

Where the River’s people once made their homes
Where they sang, cried, and nurtured

Now people in their motorboats
Grip steel fish hooks and laugh.