I dig in good dark soil. Bottomland
smells of freshness ripe for seeds.
Grandmother’s fingerbones kneading dough
among the sorghum fields. We are sedimentary
until memory or myth bleed through the layers
into the next generation. What they couldn’t afford.
For a year my father wore his aunt Marnie’s
ran home from the big boys every day after school.
When I married, he said
The most important quality in a man is kindness.
Great Aunt Lora’s one possession was
a heart-shaped Scottish pin, mosaic chips
meeting in a highland Bluebell. A small pin
the size of a commandment.
Her disappointment rings down each generation. Lend
what you can afford to lose. She co-signed a loan
for a friend and peeked out her years
from a back bedroom of great grandmother’s house.
Mosaic fragments of her nest egg.
I have it now.
In the quietest hour I hear ghost voices from up
Chesapeake Bay, from Harford County beside the
Susquehanna, down Calvary Lane. 200-year
voices rolling over the stones of Tobacco Run
from the fields around the Big House. Ghost
cousins, divided by the sword and by the chain.
Resemblances mirrored in myth half-told.
The fieldstone house is still there, where
wrongs danced to a tune immanent as mothermilk.
At night I turn my skin inside out.
Self-portrait with Mantis
Three stories up where the wires
convene, we are unseen, all elbows –
you on the pole’s crossbar among the insulators
and transformers; I lean out the top deck
of the Boathouse Bistro.
You watch, sleek green and scissors-size,
as moths throng the glare of the street light
on this telephone pole far from your shrub.
Big-eyed as storm troopers,
we seek a pulse with our palms.
The San of southern Africa say that Cagn
the Mantis, the first being, created the world
and all its creatures. But the world proved troublesome
and so full of strife that he removed his wife
and home to the top of the sky.
Ann A. Philips is a Maryland poet whose poems have appeared in Green Mountains Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Verse Daily, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Big Muddy, The Delmarva Review, Little Patuxent Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Gargoyle, The Humanistic Psychologist, The Northern Virginia Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her collection A Language the Land is Inventing (Wordtech, 2017) was honored by Beltway Poetry Quarterly as one of the ten best 2017 poetry collections from the Mid-Atlantic region. Ann serves on the poetry staff of The Florida Review.