Old women called the two’s affliction meanness
a word they usually saved for naughty children—
for these were Robinsons, not normal folk,
and couldn’t help themselves.
In Center Post,
in Harrisburg, and far away as Gore
or Welcome Hill, god-fearing gossips clucked
and spun the brothers’ mischief into tales:
one brother’d gone out whoring on a Sunday
while the other, drunk on cheap corn liquor,
fired his twelve-gauge at the Piggly Wiggly’s
porcine marquee and, laughing, made the sheriff
chase him around the block until he spewed.
No one knew the brothers’ Christian names
or which pine-dotted holler they called home.
Folks didn’t know the older brother wept
when, on the radio, a preacher read
the Psalms, or that he played the fiddle deep
into the nights he once drank his way through—
and no one knew the younger brother’d lost
his wife to shine and almost ate his gun
a time or two.
But folks had seen their work,
the fly-swarmed carcasses of deer they’d poached—
the heads severed, meat unharvested,
hides marked with a shaky, knife-scrawled R
"For the Robinson Brothers of Chattooga County, Georgia, Now Deceased" was originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, vol. 39.