Feed: poems by Emily Mohn-Slate. Selected by co-editors Steve Bellin-Oka and Ron Mohring as Number 18 in our Keystone Chapbook Series, celebrating the work of Pennsylvania-connected poets.
Publication: March 25, 2019 [100 copies]
Emily Mohn-Slate‘s poems and essays can be found in New Ohio Review, At Length, The Adroit Journal, Indiana Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her full-length manuscript, The Falls, was a finalist for the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize offered by University of Pittsburgh Press, and the Brittingham and Pollak Prizes offered by University of Wisconsin Press. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a member of the Madwomen in the Attic Writing Workshops.
Up the Road, Women in Dark Dresses
pull corn in tall fields like the ones she grew up tending,
and my grandmother waves knotted fingers at my son.
She dangles them like ribboned wands.
His eyes follow for a few seconds, lose interest.
I nurse him in her dark living room–ancestors
with my flecked eyes watching. 1957, my grandmother,
age twenty-two, married in a sensible skirt suit and hat,
red lips flat, not quite a smile.
My husband talks to her on the other side of the wall,
her motorized bed grinding up and down. I want
to do something beautiful for her, sincere as the flower
of my son’s mouth slightly open as he sleeps on my breast
something like the way he reaches for my mouth while he eats,
needs to touch my lips, to know I am there and breathing, too.
She is dying and I don’t know what to do.
I press a brown velvet pillow to my face to remember,
can’t describe the smell seconds after. She is dying and I want
my son to make her smile. But he is serious, grunting and batting
at her purple fleece robe. She helps him clutch
the robe’s thick belt. It tightens around my throat.
Everything she might say is locked in her shy neck.
I do not ask the questions I meant to ask. She waves goodbye.
The rented mattress sighs when I stand to go.
The corn along the road bows its many necks goodbye.