Barge & Blanket
I am barge. I am blanket. This morning I was wrestling ring.
Before you were born I was cocoon, was chrysalis shell.
Then, I became bumper, burpcloth, bathmat.
Then, siren of police car and ambulance wailing together
with any threat of hurt or slight.
I was bottle before bowl, pacifier prior to plate.
Someday soon I will become launchpad. Become
starting line. Become rearview.
I'll be prologue, be remembrance.
But I will still be beacon in unfamiliar waters.
And barge when you need safe passage.
Be buoy when you find it difficult
Golden Shovel after Natasha Trethewey
“Your mother is dying,” he yelled at
me in the cab of the red pickup, my
excuses no longer valid. Still, my mother’s
illness did not seem real: a grave
Once, when I was small, ants
covered my body. Water streamed
from the hose she held, covering me in
wet salvation, and
she stripped me bare
With every rising
of the wide winter moon above
the water, I think of her,
her garden left untended,
an abandoning mid-plot.
I’ve never figured out
how to hold a memory like
a heart in my hands, its arteries
still pulsing. How to take a
thing, big as a monument, make it tiny:
mountain minimized to mole-hill.
Seeing this place as my aunt must have seen it
fifty years ago as a teenager, new to town,
I understand her resentment, her hesitancy to visit.
She tells stories of a school separated not by race—
that was a given, then—but by locals versus "government."
The Joneses and Wallaces not mingling with Kradenskis and Cannizzos,
the names of immigrants trickling down from the North,
drawn southward by orders or the lure of lucrative engineering work.
The threatening phone calls they got in the summer of '67
that stopped her working with black children.
Her baptism out of religion, not one of fire, nor of water, but of wind—
the work of a whisper, violence in the voice.
Jessica Temple earned her PhD in poetry from Georgia State University. She lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with one dog and what you would probably consider "too many" cats, teaches at Alabama A&M University, and really does enjoy long walks on the beach. These poems are from her forthcoming collection Daughters of Bone (Madville Publishing, 2021). Find out more at jessicatemple.com.