“Elegy for the Midden Wife”
(this poem first appeared Star*Line's 2018 summer issue)
Her best dress is for the wrong season
the Company Town rarely sees winter
more often beset by a warm rotten rain
I don’t know if she or the town has a name
That can go on slabs that will mark both graves.
Hers today, I will close the plastic casket
after I pick the pieces of wire and hair
from her moth bitten wool sleeves.
Her hands that have been bled by pins
and beer bottles will never see another life
into the world, and so her mantel passes to
woodcarvers, or sourdough fermenters.
She made children from the streets, made them better
than others because she made them out of nothing
at all, nibbles from the butcher, rotten fat,
ribs – no child ever had the same number.
In a town with so many wasted bodies,
in Teratogen County, she made smiles from nothing,
She made fairy tale pistil children, the snow whites
for blackened insides, every body here changed
By the Mine, Smelter, Sifter, but she coaxed life
out of waxed paper and protein bar wrappers and breathed
a little cough into leather strap lips and cellophane lungs,
worked the chicken bone legs until they could stand and run.
Laughter outside drowns out the deliveries and trains,
goes on through the caustic rain and withering wind.
Her wake is empty except for me, her life ripples out.
Her dirty children play in the streets in all seasons.