Bio Note: I am a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Besides reading and writing, I enjoy reading cookbooks and watching my young grandsons participate in their sports events. In 2021, I published my first collection of poems, Strange Fire, and last year I was honored to be nominated for Best of the Net.
Marrow and Mutation
A Duplex after Jericho Brown We’ve got today, but again, maybe not— maybe just this minute, this breath, this right-now song. Why, then, not belt it, this right-now song, this minute, while we yet breathe? Let us skip and turn and lift and jump, arms outstretched in exultation, arms outstretched to shout with the universe that we exult in the now, the unexpected, the broken and the whole, the unexpected that sometimes attempts to break us or send us spiraling into the avalanche’s path or into the abyss’s darkness like the news we received yesterday, news of stem cells in the dark recesses of bone marrow growing abysmally out of control, scarring and causing genetic mutations; yet when life mutates and we lose control, the very marrow of our being hints of our short stay in this broken but beautiful world whispering of eternity set in the human heart. Yes, we’ve got today— but again, maybe not.
The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as facts could see, was being ashamed of what they were; lying about it, trying to be somebody else. ―J.K. Rowling I remember attending the D.A.R.’s annual meeting with my mother during my senior year, I, robed in youth and the future and my mother’s only pair of run-free hosiery, posing for the flashing cameras and flashy reporters, she in plain home-spun dress, austere and unadorned, several years older than the other mothers in the room, worn from days of carrying the weight of wonder and work and ailing husband. There I was, accepting the school’s Good Citizen award, ashamed―ashamed of my poverty, ashamed of my mother’s primitiveness, ashamed of who I was. That night the gold seal on the black-framed certificate blazed like Charon’s burning eyes upon the dresser, exposing a fraud. Liar, liar, pants on fire. That night I nestled deep in Mama’s patched and piecemealed quilt that looked a lot like love and forgiveness.
Recollections on the Burning of Our House, 1980
It was September. I remember my brother beckoning me to the door of my classroom to tell me our homeplace was burning. I recall nothing much about our half-hour drive to get there, but I must have been thinking of the gathering room Daddy had carpentered at the back of the house, one side wall and the whole back wall windowed, curtained just enough to allow in the sun and a spectacular view of chickens pecking in the yard near the rusty old barn and buxom chinaberry tree. I must have thought about the shelling of peas on the front porch, the washing of clothes on the back, Mama at work in the kitchen, singing Just a Little Talk with Jesus. And what of the physical items that spoke of who we were? The mirrored, whatnot-filled, upright piano; the white, red-lettered, imitation-leather Bible in oak bookcase; the shoeboxes brimming with black and white photos, report cards from our teachers, an occasional obituary clipping from the local newspaper; or advertisement for Bantam or Leghorn chicks from the feed and seed catalog. And though I must have thought of the meeting we would hold to plan the support and care of our mother, nothing could have prepared me for the image when we turned onto the street, the house a towering inferno. Standing in the middle of the road, the citadel of our family, wringing her hands, at times pulling her apron to her cheeks to wipe the tears, whimpers, sometimes wails, emanating from her core like a fawn in distress.
©2023 Jo Taylor
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