The Storyteller

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The Storyteller

The Storyteller

Of his character Aunt Rennie, who tells these shaggy dog stories, Poet Leonard Trawick has written that her “tales are based on stories I remember from childhood. This has always been a good poem to read to audiences.”

"The Storyteller" by Leonard Trawick

I heard a man ran off one time with Aunt Rennie Dejonnit’s money,
But without Aunt Rennie;
And I heard she had sued the President of the First National Bank,
Won, and paid the rest of her life for it.
But as long as I can remember, she lived
In a shack out on the Troy highway, crazy as a bat,
Took in washing, and propagated an endless flock
Of fool stories I never could brush out of my mind.

She used to tell about the time Joe said to Amarilly,
“You take this butcher knife and wait at the front door,
And I’ll take this ice pick and wait at the back door,
And you call out, ‘Run, Mooney—Joe’s after you!’
And one of us’ll be sure to get him.”
Well, Mooney ran out the back door,
And when the people came, Joe said “Amarilly done it.”
And the judge said, “Electric chair, Amarilly.”
But if you go by that place on a dark night
You can hear a voice saying over and over,
“Joe done it. Joe done it.”

And I remember her telling about the old woman
Who was always chasing after a young man,
And the young folks told her, “Sit up on this tin roof
All night naked under a wet sheet,
And you’ll win your young man soon in the morning.”
So there she squatted like a cold storage hen,
Shivering and moaning, “I’ll win me a young man,
Soon in the morning.”
But the only young man she won was the undertaker.
And sometimes, just before daylight,
You can still hear her moaning, “Soon in the morning,
I’ll win me a young man soon in the morning.”

And Aunt Rennie used to tell about a parrot
A woman kept in a cage over her bureau,
And every time the woman undressed,
That parrot would screech out,
“I sees your bohunkus, ’deed I do!”
And the woman got so mad, she said,
“Next time you say that, I’m going to wring your neck
And throw your head on the compost pile.”
So the next time the woman undressed,
Sure enough, the parrot screeched out,
“I sees your bohunkus, ’deed I do!”
So the woman wrung his neck
And threw his head on the compost pile,
’Deed she did.
And about that time they killed a rooster to serve the preacher;
They wrung the rooster’s neck and threw his head
On the compost pile right next to the parrot’s head,
And the parrot’s head looked over at the rooster’s head
And cocked his eye kind of quizzical and said,
“Whose bohunkus did you see?”

Aunt Rennie Dejonnit, wherever you are—
Nothing tells where your shack used to stand
But two live oaks and a clump of chinaberry trees.
But I can still hear your old cracked voice
Insinuating those beggar-lice stories of yours.

"The Storyteller" by Leonard Trawick from Greatest Hits: Leonard Trawick 1965-2000. Pudding House Publications, 2001. Used with permission of the author.

Leonard Trawick grew up in Alabama. He taught English literature and creative writing at Cleveland State University from 1969 until retiring in 2000. His publications include Beastmorfs (a book of concrete poems) and poems in Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, Laurel Review, Sewanee Review, Antioch Review and other magazines.