Poems from The Night I Heard Everything
By Mary Carroll-Hackett
She Gave Her Meat and Milk
to her children, for years, claiming to be a vegetarian, her portions of each meal steaming on their plates, any extra, carcass picked clean with her mother’s fingers, pulled from the bony chicken bought carefully on sale at Food Lion, the cold white sweetness in their glasses, the brown earthiness of tough stew beef simmered tender with onion gravy—they ate what was hers, and they grew. She smiled at the milk mustaching their little mouths, the clanging music of forks hitting plates, and ate her own bowl of beans, greens grown in the garden she kept, rice to fill the same space beneath her ribs where once these babies—now children, now adults–had swam. She ate whatever remained, every bite a prayer they never heard her say.
and dirty fingernails, angels, ten thousand of them, living in trailers, canned angels, holy meat, languishing in the Carolina heat, driving up from Kinston, and Shelby, and Bear Grass, and Calico, driving in the vans they bought second hand at Car Coop, headed to the ocean, to Buxton, to Avon, to Duck, for a day, for a week, seeking some sun, and some water. Wings tucked into tank tops, t-shirts from Walmart, glittered with sayings like Hot Stuff, Daddy’s Girl, and Talk to the Hand. They dig angel toes into the hot sand, and pray over pimento cheese sandwiches, and pickles and Tupperware pitchers of tea. On the best days, they run into the sea, hugging their dirty-faced babies close, then holding them up to the wide white sky, whispering in ten thousand languages: Remember, no matter what they say, you can fly.
In Lousiana, They Say Not to Plant
on Good Friday, that blood will run from the cold ground, but Miss Pearl, my mountain grandmother, believed otherwise, believed that any seed planted that day would thrive. Her gnarled fingers clawed at the clay outside the cinderblock house she and Pap built in their sixties, the block painted as pale green as the peas she set to climb on sticks, on poles, on whatever she scruffed up into the garden. Peas and potatoes dug into the that hillside in Nebo, later when it warmed, tomatoes and okra, some soft-faced petunias, touching their velvet bodies with her cotton-picking scarred hands. But not beans, she planted no more beans after that winter my mama was twelve and Pap had run off and not come back for that long cold time, leaving her with a tribe of children to feed on nothing but the beans she’d scratched from the garden the summer before, and canned, stacked on shelves, on the floor, jar after jar green in the weak light from the window.
Years later, in the slow places all lives go, in the soft twilight of her dementia, where no matter what he’d done or that he was gone, she still hunted for Pap, this time between the night hallways and the doors my mama kept locked—to keep her from safe from wandering—in those waning days without calendars to consult, without schedules to turn to, she still knew it was Good Friday, still scrambled from her bed, still called for my mama to Come on git to the garden, where there were seeds to planted, needs to be tended, souls to be fed.
The Skin Project
involves yours, and mine, lined and curved and carrying all that we have managed to survive, fifty lifetimes in fold and lip, teeth like tines against hip, lavender ankle, tangle of feet, no longer choosing, simply following my finger to trace the line of your cheek, your hand losing its path, bent knee, the laughter of thighs, the sigh of my belly. You whisper into my ribs, wait for the echo, I know what you want me to speak—This, this is the way. Put your head on my chest and listen to what my heart says. We both know bones to be brighter in winter, lips and kiss an entirety, words we couldn’t know when we were young pass forth to tongue, go toward—not back—this ancient act, this searching for forms of fire.
What Hands Do After a Death–
they forget. Her hands didn’t know anymore. Nothing other than the bean pods, planted outside the door, the leathery switch and hang of shell and seed, her hands didn’t know themselves, knew only the snap and swing of vining things, beans like leather britches, sewn together and hung, like the old women had shown her. Her hands had always known, as had her feet, the fold of towels, the path back home, the perfect curve of cursive vowels the nuns demanded, the subtle stitch of crewel and needle pulled, the three-strand braid—all now unsprung. Now her hands dropped and wrung and slapped and stung, the drinking glass shattered to shard on hard cold tile, the thread in knots, ink shot across the page in hieroglyphs, ancient outlines of hurt. Only dirt made sense, the growth and give, then decay of seeds, her hands needing to dig, until a proper hole was made, so that something, anything, might live.
How to Save the World, and Ourselves
When the name of a place is a bird, when the bird is a song, when the song is a prayer, when the prayer is a footstep, when the footstep is a drum, when the drum is a womb, thundering open, giving birth to a sky so wide that even the stars chase across it, falling, calling out to each other, we can save it, we can, if we just remember.
About Writing for Peace Adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett
Mary Carroll-Hackett earned degrees in Philosophy, Anthropology, and Creative Writing from East Carolina University, then the MFA from Bennington College. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in more than a hundred journals including Carolina Quarterly, Clackamas Literary Review, PedestalMagazine, Superstition Review, Drunken Boat, and The Prose-Poem Project, among others. She was named a North Carolina Blumenthal Writer and winner of the Willamette Award for Fiction. Her chapbook Animal Soulwas released in 2012 from Kattywompus Press, and a full-length collection, If We Could Know Our Bones, from A-Minor Press in January 2014. Another full collection was released in March 2015, The Night I Heard Everything,from FutureCycle Press. Another chapbook, Trailer ParkOracle, is forthcoming from Aldrich Press in November 2015. She has taught writing for twenty years, and in 2003, founded the Creative Writing programs, undergraduate and graduate, at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, serving as Program Director of those programs until Fall 2011. She also founded and edited for ten years The Dos Passos Review, launching Briery Creek Press, and The Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. Recently, she also joined the low-residency faculty for the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan. Mary is at work on a memoir.
The Night I Heard Everything is available here, from FutureCycle Press.
Writing for Peace News
“We are at a crossroads to either a future of global corporate governance or a chance for democracy. As Chris Hedges writes in his new book, “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” a revolution is coming but we can’t guarantee which way it will go. Will you be there to fight for justice? You have an opportunity to do that now.”
Read Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese latest article at Popular Resistance.
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