Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poem Published in "Big Muddy"

I just got my contributor copies of Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, where my poem, "Thanks Giving" appears. I'll paste it below.

It's interesting to read this poem again and to think of its path to publication. I wrote it years ago, after what will probably be the last Thanksgiving at the old homeplace.

My family on my grandfather's side (my mom's father) used to gather on the family land. It's still in the family, but the members that I remember most vividly, my grandfather and his siblings, have all passed on. I remember some of my mom's cousins, especially Cousin Barbara, who gave me rides to the airport and rescued us once when my boyfriend's car broke down.

I treasure those stories that were told each Thanksgiving, stories of strong men and women, stories that have found their way into my poems and short stories. My favorite story is of a female relative who had a heart attack while picking the beans, but before she'd let them take her to the hospital, she insisted on changing into clean underwear.

So, here's a poem that seems a better fit for Autumn, but maybe you'll find some Spring holiday appropriateness too.

Thanks Giving

Finally, I am with my own kinsfolk.
I do not feel a freak of nature anymore.
Here beneath this hook
where my great grandfather butchered hogs and deer,
I stare into faces familiar to me.
My future face.

I have the strong, solid body
which doesn’t belong to this age
of computers and office politics.
I was meant to be up at half a crack of dawn,
fixing a huge breakfast
before I plowed a field and put an addition on the house.
All in a day’s work.

The strength of my people lies
buried in my bones and brain,
a genetic code impossible
to diet or exercise away.
My hips would balance a baby
while I shaped bread dough and slaughtered chickens,
if only I would comply.

But I’ll submit to my genetic destiny on some level.
I will always awaken before sunrise,
always keep an eye to the sky,
track the weather like a second religion.
I’ll cook enough food for a small third world country
and share my good fortune with others.
I’ll tell the family stories
about strong women
with indomitable wills.

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