Are you ready to get primal, Slushies? We look at poems of birth and mothering that call on the senses as they shift between what’s animal and what’s human in us. Kathy celebrates the pure, messy pleasure of a classic tomato sandwich and Jason reminds us why an irregular opening line can be the hook a poem needs, while we all marvel at a poem’s ability to dazzle us with changing perspectives, locations, and personas. Oh, and strong titles get some much deserved love too.
At the table: Kathleen Volk Miller, Jason Schneiderman, Samantha Neugebauer, and Dagne Forrest
Sarah Elkins lives in southern West Virginia where she is rounding the final curve of a four-year term as a councilperson in the City of Lewisburg, population 3,700ish. She is also chair of the Parks Commission (Yes, you should be thinking Leslie Knope). Sarah and her husband Max run Hammer Cycles, a bicycle shop in White Sulphur Springs, WV. She and Max founded and coach the Greenbrier Valley Hellbenders Youth Mountain Bike Team and work tirelessly on trail advocacy and mountain bike initiatives throughout the region. Sarah’s son, Tad, is a high school freshman and loves hearing poems about his birth and progression through puberty. Oh, yeah, Sarah writes poetry. That’s what she loves to do most. Therefore, she fills her time with all the aforementioned stuff to remain at an appropriate level of disequilibrium from which the poetry springs.
The summer before my son was born, I ate tomato sandwiches
with mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
The rain was so heavy in June, the fruit
swelled on the vines and their skins ripped.
I took big bites holding thick bread with two hands,
pink rainwater running down both forearms
to my elbows—everything reduced, then,
to hunger. At night, curled on my side
in the un-airconditioned dark
I dreamt of big cats’ razor tongues
dragging the length of my back,
saber teeth at my throat, not tearing
the skin but feeling for pulse,
their muscled hips coaxing me
into the sweaty delirium of my final weeks.
The cats returned every night until
twenty-six hours before I howled him into being,
I opened. All the rain of June, and July
leaving me for the hardwood floor
where I crouched on all fours looking
for flecks of vernix, tasting my wet fingers,
sniffing the sweet water for signs it was time.
The cats slunk away until now, eating
this tomato sandwich, my first in twelve years—
I recall I was a panther once.
From the Tall Grass
I floss at night after steak and butter.
My house: unguarded range, bison huffing,
ice-faced, hooves stamping an echo stutter.
I do nothing in this boundless nothing.
No thought, no synapse firing. Still hands still
stained—berry juice of an empty morning.
This room-less space, a translucent thin will
through which I, good sow, whiff my boy’s homing.
His trek complete, except for the recount—
bighorn sheep, bull moose, near miss, eagle plume.
I toss one sleek mink to the catamount.
The grass lies down; walls rise around my room.
Ursa fades. A house cat lurks in willow.
I sip gin, smooth the pelt of my pillows.