The Last Lady

for Billie W.

by bg Thurston

There are stories told
about the lone woman
who inhabited this house
for fifty years. She kept herself
to herself, with no apologies.

Before indoor plumbing,
she owned a telephone
so the farmer down the road,
could call to warn her
when police headed her way.

She kept guinea fowl, loud
hens with polka-dot plumage
known for raising a ruckus,
sounding sirens of alarm
whenever they sensed danger.

Tough living and old habits
carved a long, stubborn streak.
Surviving the depression,
she fed guests pigs’ ear soup
served up with stale bread.

But every spring, she cut
a floral bouquet for her sister,
deep purple irises arranged
in a slender antique vase
of gleaming carnival glass.

And at midnight, on the last
night of December, she’d walk
the 200 feet to New Hampshire,
place one foot in each state
and drink a toast to one more year.