Read “Apron” and “Mildred” from the new poetry collection, When Time Was Suspended, by Julia Nunnally Duncan (Poetry ’84)


She worked in Clinchfield cotton mill,

and that evening after quitting time,

she filled her apron pockets with rocks 

big enough to hold her down

when she walked into the waters of Lake James

to drown.


In her parents’ house,

Mildred lay in state

for mourners to come and view her—

her blonde hair spread about her shoulders,

her blue eyes closed forever.

Some remembered the pretty sixteen-year-old

as a clerk in the local Belks store,

but more whispered that day

about the way she couldn’t have the married man

so she shot herself instead,

thinking she’d be better off dead

than bereaved of his love.