In the Hollers of the Tennessee River Bottoms

Danielle Sellers

Larvous Lee Sellers (1906-1972)

After my grandfather’s father was dragged to death by a mule,
his mother went so wild with grief

the baby she was pregnant with
was born with her stomach in knots.

It was a year before his mother remarried
a man with a map for a name,

planted red lips on Larvous’s forehead and headed West,
waving a white handkerchief like a silent movie star.

At night, he heard his uncle moving against his own daughters,
their quiet whimpering his only lullaby.

No wonder Larvous became the kind of man
who forced his half-Cherokee wife to peddle silverware,

their savage gaggle of children trailing behind her
like ducklings who would grow up wolves,

while he pimped night ladies from his Lincoln Zephyr.
In rare moments, my father would talk

of childhood hunger, that deep gnawing in the belly,
how the body can turn and turn on itself.

To eat, he learned to trap, to break
small bones: rabbit neck and squirrel spine.

When asked what my grandpa was like,
Dad would only say, He sure loved his hunting dogs.


Danielle Sellers’ poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Subtropics, The Cimarron Review, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. She is the author of two collections of poetry: Bone Key Elegies (Main Street Rag 2009) and The Minor Territories (Sundress Publications 2018). She teaches Literature and Creative Writing at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas.



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