When my therapist asked what I love most about my mother, I said My momma can sang. My momma sangs Like spring cinematic sequence in full bloom. You know—like time-lapsed lilies pushing through seed & soil. Like a satyr put down his reed pipe to hoof organ pedals. My momma sangs like she God’s trombone. Like she his alarm clock. Like she cupped her hands to the hole in his side & coated her throat with surely He died on Calvary. When my momma sangs, Ain’t no waiting for the good part. It’s all peach cobbler corners. It’s all fried green tomatoes on white bread. The way my momma sangs snatches collars and wigs. It will take you there & bring you back like arc, like covenant, like bring the fatted calf. Like fire like ancestors shut up in my bones. My momma sangs There’s a lily in the valley & Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘round. with chord change & octave riff. Like gettin’ to the Promised Land ain’t nuthin’ but a run away. Like crossing chilly Jordan ain’t nuthin’ but a run away. Like crying Holy Ghost power could be the report of the pistols some Moses had hid beneath her skirt tails. Momma sangs with her eyes closed like river run on. She sangs with her head back like river run on. She sangs with her fists clinched like father I stretch like storm clouds like death ain’t nuthin’ but a run in her Sunday stockings & it’s too damn hot in this house for stockings anyway.
A Broken Shovel for that which Will Break Again We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan --Gwendolyn Brooks It’s a hell of a time to find ourselves. And aren’t we proud we made it here together. Big Bang to upright. Viral to virulent. And some of us are still married to trickle-down democracy. This world of wedges & rails. Ode to the things we’ve stretched like last dimes. Ode to the bacteria in the culture. Ode to the legends of the self, rehearsed & centered. A hell of a way to find ourselves. Un-masked & dry. Which is to want to believe that living before was lush with frolic & freedom for all, not hours in downpours of dollar menu wrappers & near-collisions on off-ramps owed to purpose and here we are. A hell of a place. With room to muse cures for oppressions. Maybe the light. Maybe the light, broken & injected right into the body. Here healing is often involuntary. Like taxes. Like curl-patterns. Like breaking again tomorrow is the only certain plan.
Born in Louisville, Mississippi, Jermaine Thompson learned language from big-armed women who greased their skillets with gossip and from full-bellied men who cursed and prayed with the same fervor. He’s been writing poetry since he was thirteen years old—inspired by having to memorize Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” for a Black History Program at his Presbyterian church home. Jermaine loves language for what it creates, what it destroys, for what binds in Heaven, & what it looses on Earth. Jermaine is an educator who has publications in The Pinch, Memorious, Whale Road Review, Southern Indiana Review, and New Letters.
Guest Editor Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY Magazine, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. Learn more at her website.