Ohio River Flood, 1937

Grandma said the streets of Portsmouth
ran yellow with mud in the rain.
When the river loosed its banks, her family
stuffed towels around door-seams,
hauled drawers of good china to the roof
above waterline. The garden submerged,
the chickens drowned, but she saved
her rooster, cradled in the crook of her knee
as rivertide lipped the gutters below.

My father says she has a pitchfork tongue.
Says she’s scratched out a mean life
and never cried once. But Grandma
swears she did, when hers was the hand
that brought the hatchet to the rooster’s neck.
There was nothing left to eat but dust—
the meat filled her stomach,
but left the grit of silt between teeth.