365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor


Another of Mama's Miracles

I remember how Mama,
wearing the gingham apron
and a half-frown on her face
would stand in our kitchen
with both her hands
on both her hips
and indulge in a frigid season's fancy.
In her Lavinia Lowry strut
she would walk to the frosted window
early January's chill produced
and peer out at the sky,
her honey-golden hands
parting the summer curtains
to make sure she could see.
Sometimes she'd chide the weatherman
for making still another mistake
each time he promised
a foot of snow
and the sky continued
wearing blue:
"I 'clare that old guy
on that radio
must get paid
for telling lies"
How she would bring up Daddy,
who loved liquor more than Mother,
and Mother who loved Daddy's money
more than she loved him.
How she'd make for Sister and me
sweet hot chocolate (or "cocoa" as we called it)
and tea cakes, too,
and Sister and I
would forget about
the snow and money order that hadn't come
and very likely wouldn't.

"It's why God made tomorrow
to help folks better take today,"
Mama said with a sigh
as she served Sister and me,
shaking her head and heading
back to the kitchen window
to watch winter have its way
while flinching a half-frown on her face
and pulling at the pockets on her apron.

(Musing Born by Gazing at a Picture and Reflecting on a Legacy)

Where is my grandmama?
Why is she not featured
among the cellist, mime, the dancer,
second tenor, or the painter?

I blink and suddenly think,
maybe she's making tea cakes,
her caramel-colored hands kneading beige dough
in a bright blue bowl
with a chip in the rim
like Uncle Sunny's tooth.

Then her jelly-jar cookie cutter
molds almost perfect circles
for the greased-with-butter baking pan.

Perhaps she's bent in a McConnells, South Carolina, cotton field,
her fingers nimble, quick, and strong
working the white-fleeced bulbs
like a spring wind whips lace clouds
until they're
women riding horses
through the blue.

Or is she strolling along
the lucid, rippling tidewater
in the part of the photo
so far into the beach background
the visible portion's lost?

She could be calling Tina
or Dee or even Sister,
"Dinner's ready! If I have to
come in that room!" her cheeks
puffing in and out
as only she could call us.

Or maybe she's just funning us
that Lavinia Lowry sense of humor
which made us giggle and go find
why shadows chase each other,
playing tag with
blond milkweed and jade grass blades,
why sunset's amber rays
are tied with russet ribbons.

I could grow angry
because my grandmama,
bronzed madonna,
majestic in a gingham apron,
is missing from this artwork.

But maybe I can
glance again
among the cellist, mime, the dancer,
second tenor, and that painter
and find Mama
as she was before she died,
not quite the star on stage,
more as a director
who lifted others above
the spanse of the sky,
beyond the glory
in the moonglow.

Doris A. Ezell, a native of York County, has been teaching language arts at Chester Middle School since 1978. Educated at Winthrop (B.A. and M.A. degrees), she will spend six weeks in England this summer on a DeWitt Wallace Reader's Digest fellowship awarded through the Breadloaf Rural Teacher Network. She began writing poetry in the eighth grade, but "got serious" about it at Winthrop, where she was published in the college's literary journal.

© Copyright by POINT, 1996
Last modified 5/9/96