her drawl built the highway system and levelled mountains
on its days off. her locked jaw at the lip of others’ prayers
my grandma’s got gas station rhetoric. she speaks
pimen-uh cheese, arkansas, and church.
says grace with the same instinct she breathes.
she’s got a temper like a damp stump smouldering
long into flood season. she’s got the sideeye of a symphony.
she’s dragged my grandad deaf to the orchestra
each year only for the singalong. she harmonizes like a churchlady
who knows the joy of order and occasional off-beats.
her house is a familial sect, all the cousins and children in or above the ozarks
flock there each winter. my grandma hugs hello and goodbye and that’s all.
she keeps her toes in book club, quilt circle and everyone’s business, keeps her own
as close as a cicada grows its second skin. her gossip sold the bayou to the loggers
and says she doesn’t regret it.
she says her brother’s still got acres in the wetland, a lick north of Louisiana. says she heard the shops got shut down but all the characters stayed, could recognize ‘em if she saw ‘em but she hasn’t. doesn’t mention her father but he was there until he wasn’t. doesn’t mention her mother because she stayed too long, became as soft as the ground. my grandma ditched the swamp and cicadas but kept her pageant sash and courtesy. a romantic relic. beauty of Locust Bayou. queen of locality my granddad extracted. look at us and all these miles, the promise of mountains and leaving. all pageantry falls to plague but grandma still speaks to me of mists, of the mired smile of a Lord she levelled but can’t leave behind.
Ellie Sharp is a college student in Portland Oregon, although she discovered a love of writing as a high school student in Chicago. She’s been published in Bitch magazine and has a pet frog.