Showing posts with label Grandma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grandma. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Image © 2013 Jennifer Wagner

She grew up in Nixa,
barefoot, hay in her hair,
with a penchant for buttermilk
and married men.

Now I ain’t excusin’ nobody,
ain't judgin’neither,
just tellin’ it how it was
there in the sweltering heat of a late-July June.

She drove a charcoal-painted Mercury Comet
with a side window
busted out.  Never fixed it,
said it was because she liked the sound
of the thunder rain coming through,
like horse hooves,
at full gallop.

A tube of lipstick in a gaudy orange-pink shade,
rolled around on the dash,
its contents melting in the sizzling sun.
One time, as I sat shotgun and bumping along dirt roads,
the smell of the sweet, warm earth in our noses,
I asked her why she kept it there—
the rattle of it being a continual poke to the nerves.

She said it was on account of how it reminded her
of the dog who’d  bitten her and blotted out all her suns.
I always thought it was a joke I never understood,
but would
when I hit that magic year
when things adults said became clear.

She always drove barefoot,
tossing her boots in the backseat,
and pulling her flowered country dress up
while slipping down on the pedals,
a jar of sweet tea between her knees.

The winds of change were coming,
she’d say, and get that far-away look
like she’d seen her last blue Missouri moon.

The day she burned out,
I’d felt it. 
Like being stranded
in a float tube on winter’s river.

She’d gone to Springfield to catch a glimpse of her little boy
playing in someone else’s backyard.
A woman came out and was applying a Band-aid to his knee,
he’d called her ‘Mama’.
And that’s how one word can break your heart.

When we knew she’d met the fate of comets,
I ran to my room to bleed myself onto paper;
to write dreams of life lived violently, cursedly, and then
of green grass and white daisies,
and things that never end.

And to cry.

She’d left the lipstick tube for me,
on my scarred wooden white-painted dresser,
with her empty jar,
and 3 sets of  Newberry’s dime store earrings
in the shape of mini stars, moons, and daisies.
I drank the tea in 3 gulps,
slid the tube in my pocket,
stuck the star-shaped earrings through the holes in my lobes;

and then with all the voice I could muster,
I vowed to keep my sky,
that no dog would blot my suns,
and that he’d have to kill me
he could ever take my heart.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Wagner

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wild Peaches and the River

 She tucked me into bed,
wrapped me in
an age-worn quilt
and I slept like the baby I nearly was.

When I woke,
I pulled the quilt around me
and tiptoed across the old wood floors
covered with braided rugs.

Rubbing sleep from my eyes,
I entered the kitchen
and watched her sitting at the farm table,
with a cup of steaming coffee, slicing a wild peach.

Her hands were still strong then;
and even now I never see a peach,
smell one, taste one,
without thinking of her.

She laughed, her mellow way, eyes crinkling,
when I said how much I liked the sweetness
but not the fuzzy skin which poked
like a prickly moustache against my mouth.

Overheard her saying, later
that she ‘got tickled’
when I’d said the pigs rooting in the pen
looked like they had ribbons in their tails.

When I’d trailed her
to the rabbit cages
and saw a mama rabbit
eat her own baby

she didn’t shield me
from the horror of it,
but let me ask the hard questions
and answered them, best she knew.

‘Fascinating’ is what I’d called it,
when asked about it back home.
And she was, too,
though I never said it.

Except at the cemetery overlooking the river
when I wished her back
to see me enjoy the sweetness in my life,
to bring lightness when it poked;

and because the questions
have only gotten harder.
But mostly, to hear her ‘tickled’ laughter
one more time.

Copyright 2012 Jennifer Wagner

For Grandma.  Rest in peace, we so often rested in yours.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Paper Dolls, 1950’s Single Mother

butter she
mixed with sugar
and fed to us
on saltine crackers

we washed it down
with powdered milk
we were poor
we were rich
we didn’t know either

until we
went to school
and our dolls of paper,
to friends whose had
vinyl and mohair
and real clothes,

became priceless
she’d made
them all
by hand

for Mom and for Grandma (Elaine Rogers, 1926 – 2010)
Copyright 2012 Jennifer Wagner
added to The Poetry Pantry