Possum

People ask me if we ate the possum.
We did.

We never trapped him − the hunt − that was for fun.
My father would not feed the possum on milk and cereal for a week or two −
to clean him out − or anything like that − before killing.

I’ve seen him sink the just-killed, un-skinned possum in scalding water.
His hand would flash over the body, testing it for plucking the hair.
When his fingers slipped readily he’d lift the possum from the water and scrape.
We did shoats like that at our yearly hogkillings.
Using a Kerr jar-lid, he’d scratch-scrape-scrape pouring cool water over the possum’s body.
He’d gut and clean the possum like he’d do a young pig.

And Mama would fix the possum for the table − either barbecuing it − using lots of vinegar
or she would roast it as for pork.





About the Author: Shelby Stephenson's *Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl* won the Bellday Poetry Prize, 2008, Allen Grossman, judge, and the 2009 Oscar Arnold Young Award from the Poetry Council of North Carolina, Jared Carter, judge. From 1979 to 2010, when he retired from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Shelby Stephenson edited the international journal *Pembroke Magazine.* His most recent publication is a chapbook of poems called *Play My Music Anyhow* (Finishing Line Press, 2013). His website is shelbystephenson.com.