Americana Stories Web Features: Poetry

Skin Smooth—Laine Derr

Until her mother died,

she’d forgotten a thumb

calloused from killing –

an ant, hemolymph still warm.

an ant, even in death, fights.

an ant with boot cut jeans, sugar-coated throat.

Letting go: ashes sinking,

river stones longing for kind,

skin smooth from shining –

a body thinned with linseed oil.

a body eaten by shadows.

a body, ugliness is the beauty.

Born with a hole, her heart still misses its form.

The blackberry blossoms are late this year.

~~~

Laine Derr holds an MFA from Northern Arizona University and has published interviews with Carl Phillips, Ross Gay, Ted Kooser, and Robert Pinsky. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming from Chapter House, ZYZZYVA, Portland Review, Oxford Magazine, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.

Americana Stories Web Features: Poetry

Morels—Amy Love

“When old apple trees quit yielding,” she says, 

fingering scarred bark with sun-spotted hands, 

“farmers beat them with chains. It stirs up traumatin, 

a hormone that shocks them into blooming and bearing again.”

“Apocalypse sex for trees?” She laughs, but

her thumb probes a rift and I flush just watching.  

Then she drops to her knees, on the hunt around the trunk.

This orchard’s been barren since before I was born

and we’ve come here looking for a different fruit, 

but it’s too late in the season. The fiddleheads are unfurled, 

the morels were over by May. She gives up, pulls me down 

by my skirt hem. “Is it the apocalypse yet?”

Hasn’t it been all my life?  These damned fruit trees, 

the way we laid claim, all over the Northwest Territory

they’re shriveling in scalding summers, losing limbs,

yielding nothing. Killing frosts reach further into

every passing spring, crushing overeager blossoms

from scions bred for her steadier times. 

Her hands are old enough to know what they’re doing.

Thirty years of wheel throwing taught her pressure and pace, 

how to open a form, stretch wet clay, collar a curve, 

how to raise a wall and ease off before it’s worn too thin. 

How hard she can push. She’ll leave me by autumn, 

not caring to see what may crack in the firing.

But I’ll come here again, with some man my own age 

and I’ll know what to look for next spring

when the ferns are still furred and coiled: 

this spent orchard’s last yield, the choice, 

musky fruits of dying roots. I’ll sauté them in butter, 

feed him some with my fingers, try not to think of her hands.

~~~

Amy Love is a librarian, web developer, mother, writer, and amateur forager. She lives in the North Carolina mountains with her young daughter.

Welcome to our newest project: Americana Stories Web Features

Today we begin an exciting new series at the museum—Americana Stories—highlighting poetry, fiction, and essays that will bring outstanding new work to our museum readers. Each week here on News & Features, we’ll feature selections of exciting repurposed Americana, a chance to expand the writers we serve with new fiction, poetry, memoir, flash, and essays, and regularly bring new voices and new perspectives on American culture to our museum readers.