Just Say Yes by Mirian Brooks Butterworth

picture of Anne Carroll Fowler
Photo by Sharyn Peavey  

In Anne Carroll Fowler’s The Case of the Restless Redhead, a terrifying, beautifully written, entirely unconventional history in verse, the senseless and brutal murder of the author’s beloved grandmother is depicted from many perspectives, sparing no one but also being entirely fair to the perpetrators and presenting a loving tribute to the author’s namesake. The Attorney General of Maine, Janet T. Mills has commented thus: “Who could kill a 79-year-old grandmother in her own home, in her own bed? Who could steal her life for a TV and a radio, useless loot dumped in the ocean in dark of the night? Who could shoot her in the eye with a ‘pen gun,’ an innocent-looking thing pretending to be a scribe’s tool? .... Our lives are not lived alone, nor do our deaths occur in a vacuum. In this volume, one fond family member has taken up the stylus, putting true pen to paper to memorialize one terrible event in the life of a Maine community done with a gun that pretended to be a pen. Listen to her voice. Learn from these lines.” Susan Donnelly writes, “The Case of the Restless Redhead takes on the challenging task of describing in poetry the murder of Fowler’s loved grandmother and its immediate and lasting effects on the family. The author’s close attention to detail brings her grandparents, their history and their whole social milieu clearly before us, while, in a poem like ‘Foghorn,’ her empathy universalizes them. Her description of the hapless criminals is equally clear-eyed, compassionate and just. The book’s arrangement of time is especially effective, moving back and forward as it does from the central crime. Along the way, Fowler’s poetry gives us fine images: ‘the swooning / of gardenia,’ the ‘edgy question mark’ of a great blue heron, ‘vanity, that wormy apple.’ Her book is a challenge well met on all levels.” And this from Julia Spencer-Fleming: “Raw, lyrical, and startlingly unique, Anne Fowler’s writing is like a gun spun out of glass. The Case of the Restless Redhead melds poetry, true crime and brutally honest memoir into a work that transcends genre. Read it and be transported.” Concerning the criminal investigation, former Assistant District Attorney Pat Perrino has said, “I’ve tried over a hundred cases, but that murder scene is something you never forget, never.”
  The Case of the Restless Redhead
Poems by Anne Carroll Fowler cover image
  Cover design and photograph by Christopher Harris

The Reverend Anne Carroll Fowler is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director and pastoral counselor in Portland, Maine. Her work has appeared in many journals, and is included in several anthologies. Four of her chapbooks have been published by Pudding House, and a fifth won the Frank Cat Press 2002 Chapbook Contest. For ten years she ran the Chapter & Verse Reading Series in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-82-5

Copyright © 2015 by Anne Carroll Fowler

6" x 9" paperback, 86 pages



Copyright ©2015 Anne Carroll Fowler


Granny Thought She Was Lucky

despite everything:
her baby Benjie dying,
brother John bankrupt
shooting himself in the heart,
brother Olcott drunk
killed in his car crash.

Despite my mother’s
rejection of permanent
waves, the Colonial Dames.
Despite Grandpa.

She had a gift for finding
four-leaf clovers. She did, every time.
What’s your secret? I asked her once.
I always look. I always look.

When those men
break in the window
she switches on the light,

gropes for her glasses,
for a future, reaching
for the phone, dragging

those holes around the dial.

Benjamin Payson Holt,

He will always be
a white wraith,
copper-curled, barely
able to walk, a flannel
doll against Beulah’s
huge blackness.
It wasn’t his birth,
not even his death,
but the in between:
colic, eczema,
the black ointment—
think of it,
a baby
with aluminum mittens
on his poor hands
so he can’t scratch
oozing sores!
How to forgive
Sally carrying death?
Or Ben,
who never
stepped inside
the nursery? How to
her heart
kneeling before
his casket in shamed
gratitude, in
inconsolable relief?

Portraits of My Grandmother

Mine posed, stunning in her flapper phase, stiff
on an iron garden settee with Grandpa Ben:
indolent, dandified, golf club dangling
from his index finger.

Beautiful still at eighty, no loss or compromise
traced on her face. Captured in lavender silk,
leaning toward the camera, Granny salutes
my brother on his wedding day,
willing him blessings.

Now she presides over my front hall,
monumental, auburn-haired in a lime green gown.
Is that you? everyone asks. My grandmother,
my namesake, I tell them, taking another bite
of vanity, that wormy apple.

Interrogation (2)

Do you hate them?
Why did they have to?
Do you hate them?
She’d just moved Grandpa.
Do you hate them?
She was not at all sick!
Do you hate them?
She was just starting.
Do you hate them?
She was going to Australia!
Do you hate them?
We had to cancel her party.
Do you hate them?
I was named for her.
Do you hate them?

Those Xeroxed Pictures from
the A.G.’s Office

show everything in her bedroom
as I remember—chaise longue covered
in pink and green flowered chintz,

matching curtains, tall dark mahogany bureau,
mirrored dressing table, pastels of two ethereal
children over the mantel. The cane she hated,

hooked on the cannonball-and-carved-
bell headboard. Her bed table: lamp
with its ruffled shade, big rotary

phone, strand of pearls, open book
upside down. Her balloon spectacles,
frames band-aid-colored. The ones she needed

to read the phone. A silver-handled
magnifying glass, porcelain ashtray, a half-
smoked cigarette. These last pictures: look

at them. The unmade bed, dark-
stained sheets and laid across
the bedspread, somehow, her

bloody lacy cotton gown.

Cheryl Breaks First

Party girl, weak link, scared
of everything: fog, police, shadow, but finally
hell or Leland—maybe they’re the same. That
old music unraveling. Somebody else’s
party now. Ronnie’s a chicken, a snitch, but
his hands are cleanest. Cheryl’s fifth grade cursive:
Leland make a comment, “might have to get
rid of a piece.” Her crude drawing of a gun.
It look like a cigar.

No Mendelssohn, no confetti, but Denise
marries in front of the coffee machine
in the Portland Police Jail. No bare skin,
nobody to stand up but the Sheriff. On that night
of everything Fred cries in bed. How can she not
love him? He’s so deep, he reads books, needs her
more than ever. Mrs. Frederick C. Askew, a bride
of four days may spend the traditional honeymoon
next week as a prosecution witness in her husband’s
murder trial.

Leland won’t talk so Immie can’t.
A chatterbox, all sass and spunk.
Now her greedy music’s shut up,
her black cascade of curls chopped off.
Just seventeen, wrapped so tight and spoiling,
spoiled for hope, just glimpsing
that unyielding and murdered future
men can’t save her from, men won’t.

Telling Lizzie

We sit on the loveseat Granny gave me.
We talk. We won’t see Granny anymore...No, not
Petal either...We won’t go to her house...Sure
we can watch Mr. Rogers.

I think I’ve done such a good job.
I take her to the cemetery.
Lizzie thinks Granny’s living underneath
the gravestone, with furniture and the dog

—a female pharaoh buried
with her full set of Rose Medallion china, necklace
with seventeen teardrop opals, little Benjie’s portrait,
and Petal the dachshund, placid for once at her feet.

Testimony (1)

Fred called to the witness stand
swears to tell the whole truth and nothing but.
Says Leland broke the window with the tire iron.
Says We climbed in. The bathroom.

Says I went into her bedroom
heard her sit up. Sound of sheets.
Heard her turn on the light

Says I sat down on her bed
and told her I’m sorry we did
wrong, I’ll pay to get the window fixed.

Says she said “Yes indeed it is wrong.
I’m going to call the police.
Please hand me the phone.
Hand me my glasses.”

Says Then Leland came in,
the glass cracks behind her head.
Says Leland ran out then in again.
Has to reload.

“My god I’ve been hit.”
Leland runs out, back in again.
I hear the third shot
point blank.

Everyone in the courtroom
shifts on the benches.
The D.A. says, Are you telling me
this elderly woman talked to you like that?
The judge asks, Is that a question, Counselor?
Mother sighs.
They didn’t know Granny, did they?

No Matter

how often I read yellowed clippings
from the Portland Press Herald, the Evening Express;
police reports, their repetitious discrepancies,
false leads they followed, witness statements—typed
or hand-written, Palmer Method or block print,
atrocious spelling; post mortem report’s clinical detail
(massive hemorrhage from right axillary region);
psych reports and legal appeals. No matter how long I stare
at black and white photos (disheveled bedroom,
shattered bathroom window), I can’t stop them drinking
Allen’s Coffee Brandy, getting in the car.
They keep coming. They are always coming.


The house still calls out to me
across the meadow
where cattle once grazed.
Across decades
new owners, renovations. Tea roses still
blooming under the bedroom
windows, crimson shutters,
their pine tree cutouts
and the gulley
where the fox kept her kits. I stand in the dusty
road, beyond the stonewall,
no longer welcome, still so poor
for the loss of her,
her soft freckled arms
open. I can see across
to the Bay, blue, opening, three white sails,
horizon blurry today,
sky, sea exchanging. I come here,
waking and sleeping, the landscape
always shifting to love.

Somewhere in lush light
my grandmother’s walking
in green August.
Bees in clover,
dragonflies darting.
She takes the farm track
dusty and rutted.
Past the old cowbarn,
the low polo stables.

Cicadas and crickets
are warning of autumn,
but not yet! She swings
with her cane at the blue
iron standpipe; it rings out.
She comes down the path
to the teahouse perched
on the banking, stops
at the top of the stairs
to the rock beach.
She could almost
touch the cumulus
pillowing down the Bay.
She calls to me.
Come out of the sun now.
Come up to the house.
Come in, have a glass of tea.

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