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front porch

It was the summer of ’82 when my life fell apart, and I visited Grandma, sat on her porch in Hazelnut Corners, drinking iced tea and watching lightning bugs play catch-me-dare in the twilight.

“What’s that thing you fear, child?”

I was twenty-three, hardly a child, and hoped I made it clear in my response.

She cupped her ear and leaned forward on her squeaky porch swing. “The Reaper cussin’? That’s what scares you?”

“I said, repercussion, Grandma.”

“Well, hell, that’s just hogwash! There ain’t no repercussion, ain’t no Reaper cussin’, except the kind you place in front of your own self like banged-up paint cans to trip over and make a big howly whoop-dee-do for any poor soul who’s close enough to listen.”

I clinked the ice cubes in my tea and awaited what I knew was coming.

Grandma would never call herself a poet, though once she got a rhythm going, you could snap peas and shuck corn using half the energy and a quarter the time. Reverend Hicks said she’d have been a mighty preacher, if it weren’t for that holy injunction against women at a pulpit. But Grandma held no truck with thou-shalt-nots and given a pulpit, would have sent everyone home and turned the church into a B&B.

“Go make joyful noises,” she’d have said. “Let your kids bang pots, do some banging of your own. God knows some of you could use it.”

I wish now that I’d recorded her rune-songs while she was singing them, for rune-songs is what they were. Spontaneous, unbound, her incantations called down the Spirit and sent up her own, spinning out and growing the loop of creation her Creator began. Here, best as I remember, is what else Grandma said in her saucy way, that day we talked about the thing I feared.

Give yourself some
head room, child, grow
a house beside another
house becomes a village
with a garden, ‘nuff
to feed the crops of
young ones sprouting
tow and woolly heads
who chase each other
cross the gullies, nets
and footballs arcing
toward the sunset till
your mothers step
outside and call your
names to come indoors
where clean or rumpled
sheets await with dreams
pressed up like noses
to a candy store—it’s you
the world is looking for
the sweet and salty
liquorice taste of
smacking lips and tongue
your teeth and dreams need
spice to salivate and chew
bite down, enjoy the meats
that tempt while juices flow
let no one come between
you and the joy you’ve
come to sow, spit out
that thing you fear, it
winked out long ago
see for yourself
the lightning bugs
they’ll tell you so.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!


© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Image from http://www.fragmentsfromfloyd.com