A 76-year-old woman was slain and her 43-year-old son was found suffering from slashed wrists and a drug overdose last night at their apartment in Beltsville, Prince George’s County police reported. Police said they obtained warrants charging the son with murder. — The Washington Post

How disappointing to be still alive,
your anger now a milder shade than when
it flared up high and messed with
you and Mom and everything. Had all

that you can take, a voice inside you said.
So late at night you finally let it out,
and later tried to put it out for good –
but somehow made a mess of that. And now

you’re sitting in this cell and wondering who’s
the luckier, you or Mom? You think it’s her,
for she’s not angry anymore. They’re through
with her, but only started in on you.

Hey, listen Judge, I’m not no kid, but damn
she bugged me every rotten day we lived.
Forgive me please. You hope you might
get off by using that, but know you won’t.

And stored-up memories take a toll these days,
for Mom keeps washing dishes, serving
meals all hot. And tears cried years ago
may be forgotten, but your wrists are not.



The Shopper

Twelve eager rows of cars sat waiting while
an ooze of Christmas shoppers flowed across
their street beneath a signal giving right
of way but flashing now to hurry up.
She was behind them all and all behind

in general so it seemed to me who noticed
from the curb her death-like grip on tops
of bags that billowed out around her. And
like a sniper laid in wait frustration
watched until she got positioned in

the center of that busy place then let
the bottom of a bag break loose despite
her solid grip around its neck and someone’s
crockpot hit the street. She’d bought it
for the fact its liner came right out

and so it did and broke in shattered pieces
all across that space just as the light
above said go to cars who soon began
to honk because their go was now held up
by one poor shopper all alone in picking

up the bags her panic had turned loose
and all that glass. I watched her face change
through phases like the signal light above
embarrassed first and looking round as if
to make amends to honking cars who sought

a cop or someone anything to get her
out of there. Then pain appeared which dollars
wasted played some part I thought and changed
again and hung this time. A weary look I saw and
felt but soon away from there I then forgot.


On Seeing Where My Father’s Fingers Were Buried

Here in this valley grown with weeds, that hill
above us looking down, I see a mill

and feel its creak and smell the fresh-ground flow
that cooking made so sweet. And here I know

that echoes of a father’s past crowd in.
The old man’s memory hears it now as then.

Run quick and fetch a doctor round the hill
and mend the sudden damage of that mill

that chopped with cane the fingers stuck into
it by this boy. My thoughts on looking flew

past all those years I stared at its misshape
and though but little of a hand’s escape

through surgery done by gathered lanterns low
to serve my Dad these many years till now.

He pointed with it then. He showed the spot
where he and brother George next day took what

was left, two fingers dead, and with some care
dug in the earth and placed them wondering there.

A curious grave we’d come to see.
We went away, and left it be.                 

David H. Briggs

Because he had lost the index and middle fingers of his right hand, my father always shook hands left-handed. The mill that took his fingers ground sugar cane to make sorghum molasses. It was powered by a walking mule but had to have cane fed into it by hand.  The boyhood home site where this incident occurred was near Brush Creek, North Carolina.  Brush Creek is located near Asheville and today claims a population of 500. My father left Brush Creek to cross the mountains and attend Maryville College in East Tennessee.  After earning his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, he returned to teach at Maryville College for most of his life. When we visited my father’s home site, nothing remained of the original buildings, but my father still claimed that he knew the location of his buried fingers “within ten feet.”

Humanity Poetry


I learned most of what I know about trout fishing on an overnight trip in the Tellico Wildlife Management Area in East Tennessee.  My buddy lived nearby and loved to follow the trout streams high up to their source.  We caught them by day and cooked and ate them by the evening campfires.  As you will see, the following poem both is and isn’t about trout fishing. …

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