“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.

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