2001 Graduate Poetry Winner

 

Mary Ann Wehler

Mason City Ladies' Sewing Circle

 

Fiddle fern hangs near corner porch column, scent

of Honeysuckle suspends in air, swing sways

at porch end, lemonade pitcher, glasses,

sliced lemons, plated ice-box cookies set on

wicker serving table, calico cat naps

on railing crook, rainbow glints off cut glass framed

in Grandmother Susanís mahogany front door,

baskets of mending sit near rattan rockers,

flashing in and out of fabric, needles spark

like the bullfighters's sword, the Spanish dancerís

stiletto heels. The sewing club murmurs,

Ronnieís croup, Ellieís scars from pox, how

their garden grows, soon pokeberry jelly time.

Some quiet complaint how hard husbands' work at

not working, and they sew Heels and toes of

socks woven in and out, knees of jeans, blue

chambray elbows, christening gown buttons, fine

stitches on collars of Sunday church-going dresses,

the flour sacks are last,

 

pick up the sacks and sew hoods. The hoods fathers,

husbands, and sons wear when they pound flaming

crosses in yards at night. They sew hoods for sowers

of corn fields in Iowa. With stopped up throats

they sew hoods, murmur about the boy strung up

in the willow country road outside Mason City.

For Don who sweeps the grocery store after school each

day, Susan sews a hood. The grocer laughs with men

who sit near the pot bellied stove, cold in May,

laughs as they brag about a night they dragged that nigger

roped behind their truck, left him by the river,

served him right, opens the cash box hands the boy

 

a dime. Grandmother Susan, father used

her name with a god-like reverence, heíd look at me

and say no one could match my mother, she was

a saint. Grandmother Susan saved her flour sacks,

sewed my fatherís hood, placed on his head, carefully

felt with fingers, so as not to hurt her first

bornís eyes, marked with pins where to cut the sockets,

sewed the hood. Whose car did he ride in, who could

possibly catch him? His father, county sheriff

and game warden, threw his rifle alongside length

of rope, fishing gear, and the hoods in the trunk. Late

summer nights, too hot to sleep, Grandmother

Susan sits with her daughter on the porch swing,

they count fireflies, admire her moon flowers.

A familiar car drives by, filled with men and boys

wearing hoods, whatís that caught in her throat as she

turns her childís head, Look, the moon is full tonight.

 

 

About the Prize Winner:

Mary Ann Wehler is earning her MFA in poetry at Vermont College. Her poem, “Mason City Ladies' Sewing Circle,” was selected as the winner of this year's Touchstone graduate poetry contest.


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