When my mother was born my grandmother said now, and the doctor
said not yet, closed my grandmother’s legs
on my mother’s crowning head. That’s why the seizures.
My grandmother carried a spoon in case her girl swallowed
her own tongue. They were simpler times, Grandma will say now
about midcentury America. Isn’t that something?—nostalgia for a spoon.
Riot of the body, birth like protest. And is it charity,
metal sewn in my mother’s ankle from a skydiving accident,
her short hair, the way she says slacks? For my mother’s woes:
do something, tongue, do something, hands. Duty of a dutiful daughter,
Pandora opened the box. Zeus knew it would happen anyway.
Omniscience is like that—closing what should be opened. Opening
what should be closed. Expecting you know the difference.
Nostalgia Wants You
What is it we were singing about sorrow today?
No thorns infest the ground. So farmland, as far
as the eye can see. Not a flake of snow,
only one radio station. Summarizes nicely: year of boring
landscape, year of pop albums sent to me cosmically,
all the same message: nostalgia wants
you dead. Except it’s Christmas and I can’t
be less bloody, hallelujah amen.
Language suggests we learn our choices
as we name them. Identify subject/verb.
Around a table discussing digitized grain combines,
GPS technology making it so farmers don’t harvest,
they nap. End of an era. The war of what to do
with our hands. Yours holding six purple potatoes.
Dead goat, the family pet, sent to a glue factory. Rope
swinging low from the barn’s rafters. Swinging low
as in, romantic gesture. What could be violent
but sounds like peace instead. Your house is shadowed,
dogged, by the uranium enrichment plant.
O this adjective life. Bleeding happiness like a stuck pig.
And the moon tonight, only half a face—just that grin.
J. Maxwell Highway
In Geetingsville, no one cares where the barn owl sleeps.
The graffiti says sorghum sucks.
Floor slats of covered bridges flash green river on the move.
The Vietnam vets have an RV park which reads POWMIA, nothing else.
I stop the car in Boxley and lie in a family plot of headstones.
They’re the kind that would make my mother say, oh.
I don’t know why she does that. I sprawl out next to Beloved Wife 1830-1875.
Out west, I’ve read the farmers are finally like, never mind, let the wolves come back in.
At church, I stared at the back of Nick’s head, hair, brown & gelled & parted. Friend
of a friend, I have never spoke to his face,
but his father took three days longer than mine to die, which is why I reconsidered,
told his neck, we are in the belly of the whale.
All of us. Strangers. Notice out here the barns are only white or red.
Nearby was where Gladys Meeks, matriarch,
killed the chickens. The chickens that swallowed stones to swallow food.
She killed them in the front yard, wrung their necks clean off.
Julie Henson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in CutBank, Iowa Review, Subtropics, Southern Indiana Review, New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Pinch, Yemassee, dislocate, and others. She was a finalist for the 2014 Iowa Review Award in poetry and a semi-finalist in Boston Review’s 2014 “Discovery” poetry contest. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana with her cat, Pippa.