In this segment, we present to you a selection of poems either from talented poets publishing their work for the first time, or emerging poets who we think deserve better exposure. For the Winter 2013 issue, we focus on the poetry of Maggie Woodward.
MAGGIE WOODWARD // Seven Poems
For Sarah, Now Twenty-One
When I think about the seasons we spent growing up
against the blue-gray backdrop of the Mississippi
shrouded from the southern city
by the woods we claimed with our magic-marker flags,
the creeks we crisscrossed barefoot, hopping rock to rock,
and the Presbyterian Christian School--
I remember chipped-paint fence posts,
three-o’clock grape popsicles,
our rusted red swing set and dented metal slide,
running, heat-fevered, through sprinklers and grass lawns
wild-limbed and flailing enough
to not feel the pinch of fire-ants teething at our ankles.
I remember cracking eggs for Saturday morning pancakes,
the back seat of our mother’s minivan
dirty with cracker crumbs and gum wrappers
from our late-June trips mapping I-69
where we’d back-and–forth with Etch-a-Sketch or Woolly Willy
until the night knocked us out--
your head crooked on my right shoulder, my left
slumped into the window, our breaths even.
We were as still then as we look in the Easter morning photograph
from ’95, now dusty on a mantle in our parents’ home.
there we are: framed in our department store dresses and shiny, too-tight shoes,
heads tilted, smiling toothless, fingers squeezed
around flower stems, standing in the church parking lot.
I’m sure we heard the words, On the count of three,
put your arm around your sister and smile.
I don’t remember what she did then--
in the picture, we are laughing.
3 a.m. I lie belly-up on rough grass.
My eyelashes flutter, stomach full of bees.
The curly-haired boy is beside me with hands
cupped and eyes wild. He smells of laundry
and chlorine, looks into the green apples of my eyes.
Not blinking, we taste the paper-thin air on dry tongues.
Do you have it? he asks. I cannot speak, my voice
swallowed into quivering limbs. He sighs,
pulling his long white hands away. Then
moves forward, closing the space between our lips. I blink.
He rises, casts a crooked shadow across my body,
then slinks away with the feral cats. Naked,
I am still clutching. I try to hide the ragged holes.
The oak tree laughs as I bury myself in its roots.
She Doesn’t Remember It, But
my sister & I once killed a snake
with a shovel. it happened in the
driveway: the screams woke our
mother from her nap and caused
the neighborhood dogs to bark--
but before anyone could rescue
us, we had our tiny hands bound
around the handle and in a noisy
scrape, the metal hit the concrete
and a little green snake was two.
once, we rode the ferry twelve miles
from Gulfport to West Ship Island.
on the boat I salted popcorn,
tossed the blossomed kernels into the air
above my mouth. I let them land
light on my tongue, chomped them
loud and open-mouthed,
smacked my smiling, butter-slick lips.
I was eight. when we got to
shore, we followed a man who said a storm
once split this place in half--
his flip-flops slapped against his soles,
spitting sand out behind him as he walked.
He slurred: Just like a woman to rip you in two.
I tried to grin, but my throat
was still coated
in grease. I tugged
at my mother’s sleeve,
begging for water.
my papa made fried chicken for breakfast--
in old home videos the table is set, the
red-checkered cloth heaping with the handiwork
of my eighty-something grandfather who
hobbled from oven to griddle to stove
several times while my sister and I looked up
from our chairs at the camera with grease-grins,
licking the oil from our fingers and picking
every piece of meat off the bone.
Once, we sat in the red-walled room
of the house you were renting by the train tracks--
on the edge of your bed, I watched your hands
dance down the strings of a guitar, their sway-skip
smooth and precise as you sang the lyrics scrawled
in the memo pad you kept in your jacket.
I could read our history in the black ballpoint
ink and in the thick, painted walls of both
our bedrooms. In year four of seven, you slept
by the school and took hour-long trips to steal me
from the suburbs. Back then, we rolled our windows
down, felt the rush and soothing sting
of cold air on warm skin, slick with humidity.
You sang to me, hummed of Memphis and
magnolias. White flowers still blossom
in my sleep.
This is Your Map, Annotated
first, take I-65 south to
Nashville. switch to 40 west.
count down mile markers like
seconds leading up to the new year.
you will pass the Loretta Lynn dude ranch--
stop for a tour,
but know the cook shack burned
in February. resume driving. lower your windows.
look up and out
when you drive over
the river if you want to feel
humbled. take the exit numbered 25:
Arlington-Collierville. you are almost
there: watch the curves and your
people you know
have died on this road.
they were almost home.
everyone always is:
remember, every picket-
fence you pass is a portal.
Maggie Woodward is a student at Western Kentucky University, studying Creative Writing, Literature, and Gender & Women’s Studies. Her poetry has appeared in Rufous City Review and Emerge Literary Journal. She is graduating in May and hopes to pursue an MFA in poetry. Until then, she'll be keeping her fingers permanently crossed.