How you were born ancestor. Arrived sectioned from me.
Abdomen & what it means to be gutted. Both fists knotted
knees to chest – sometimes blood can be blessing. You
already knew how to holler. How roughhouse outside me,
how country. & all of you after my own mamaw, who was
small & subdued. Docile – who bore nine children & lost two—
swam barefoot in rivers, made skillet fried cornbread that made
me weep when she left. Her ghosted body re-arriving through mine.
Origin storied from uterus to crib. We named you knowing.
Miriam – meaning bitter or rebellious, meaning strong waters / river
beds, banks & what the tides could merge, re-immerge. Named you
So when you – smallest Miriam, cling to the neck of my father,
who was my mamaw’s oldest & most beloved, & when you say love
cradled in his arms – we know death is only a smallest exhale,
a transformation from one set of lungs to another.
How much it takes to love the smallest bodies outside of yours, or
what it means to cradle distance, or when you wake in your bed
I wake in mine. Us two all the time linked. When there you are
all I know of home. Walking away from me.
Dear Favorite Granddaughter-
Well, we got a new young buck priest over New Haven—ever thing changes—‘cept cans of beans at Aldi’s still ‘bout round 30 cents & I got a whole stacka greeting cards for ‘round about $1 from Wal-Mart over Bardstown way, which is why it’s Happy Easter in August. August—hot as hell ain’t it?
Anyway, come on back to Kentucky soon as you can. Warmer here & slower & nicer I’m sure.
You’re still my favorite (don’t tell the others) & make sure you have some fun with this money. It’s for the hell of it—says right there on the check.
Good luck with them two little ones. We had nine you know—had to ask the priest for a pardon—couldn’t handle no more after that—but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
I miss your Mamaw something awful. Getting old is hell. Hope you never have to.
Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. Her latest collection of poetry Hemisphere, was published by Northwestern University Press, Spring 2015. Ellen's poems and essays can be found in the pages of Creative Nonfiction, Underwired Magazine, and She Walks in Beauty (edited by Caroline Kennedy). Her first collection of poetry, Crowned, was published by Sawyer House Press in 2010. Member of the Affrilachian poets, Ellen lives in New York City with her husband and daughters.