Last Peanut Woman
Chris Mink
I stop by the roadside market where Vera boils peanuts 
in a twelve-gallon vat, and watch steam 
reach a high silvering paw over the lush coma 
of a produce stand years younger than her. 
Sandstone chimera statues stand guard out front. 
Quite a remedy for our collective fear of strangers, 
these moments when pleasantries 
exchange themselves innocently 
and without permission—
my whatcha know good, Vera's I can't call it. 
Instincts are animalistic. The teeth of lion 
and woman the same. Like the debutante who sleeps 
through noon on the weekends and wakes
with her arms stretched out, 
faint static between mouth and pillow. 
Or how, in the raw of boyhood, I ached for 
the fortunate walls in that room, their hanging ribbons.   
Because we grew with our own reasons
for chasing, I say these dump trucks
can rumble like hulks along a skinny two-lane highway
and wish they knew better, and Vera, filling out 
an oversized tent dress with its wiry patterned 
blue hydrangea, is the infinite romance 
of my daydreams, before a hen's claws
pressed their permanence to her temples, 
into the crooks of her hay-strong arms. These days 

she recites all the county seats 
in order of dead Indian chief.  
Dukakis—Bentsen bumper stickers 
behind the homemade mayhaw jelly 
she peddles to Yankees on vacation, 
their palm tree button downs and Technicolor
fanny packs. They stare at her all wrong.  
She adds cayenne to the vat 
with a twice-broken pinky her grandkids call 
the talon, and tries not to hate 
the words they know, that they don't cut promises 
into their palms and shake hands. 
Behind the market, her husband 
crows about a news anchor and the damned Mexicans
and man, how she stirs, carefully 
managing salt levels, estimating 
the number of stabs it would take to kill a husband 
with a roasting fork, if the fork-wielder 
is of a mind, and has some bulk in her shoulder.  
What a blessing is a new man standing by 
your wife's best apples, 
asking questions as sweet as their insides,  
who doesn't know she took a life in '73 
when the doe ran in front of her Buick.   
I hope her pedal was bound to the floor
as if it were tied up in ivy, wild
with the yellow light of fiercely manicured toes. 
Chris Mink was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was a finalist for the 2014 Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize, and semi-finalist for the 2014 Saturnalia Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Hobart, Anti-, Star 82 Review, and It Was Written: An Anthology of Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop, among others. He currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida, where he will receive his PhD in English from Florida State University in December 2014.

more by Chris Mink:
Daylight as a Chainsaw
A King Dies With His Bloodhounds in the Hay Cotton Says