Never Before or after in the courts of Justice

Caroline changed me and rocked me as a baby

sat me on the stool in the kitchen, taught me to sing

“Deep River” and “When I Grow Too Old to Dream.”


She was the best cook ever to pass through

a household of women who loved that kitchen.


When the banks closed in the thirties

she offered help to my well-to-do father

since her own funds and her husband’s

were in Postal Savings.

Dad was deeply touched.


The Postal Savings were her undoing.

As she told it, her husband had cashed them out

and spent them on what she described as “A no-good yella gal.”

The law was no help since as she put it,

“We wasn’t married with words,” her way

of explaining a common-law marriage.


Her remedy was to ask him to drive her out to Belle Isle Lake

after work and shoot him in the back of the head.


When she was arrested, she called my uncle,

a newly minted lawyer

“Mr. Charles, I got a little problem.”


He took her case and phoned his law-school

friend who was an Assistant District Attorney.


Together they pled her to manslaughter.

The Judge thundered from the bench

that it was cold-blooded and premeditated.


The DA’s office persisted, so she spent eight years

in the State Penitentiary, cooking

for the Warden and his family.


Janet Taliaferro


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© 2021 by Janet Taliaferro