“Danse Macabre, Mississippi” by Anna Journey


Danse Macabre, Mississippi: My Great-Grandmother Fires a BB Gun

There were black-eyed Susans loose at the hip, the limp magnolia
blooms worked
to a quiver. There were white necks

of her Belgian hens sent cracking. The day Baby Grace died
from strep throat, my great-grandmother

chased her son into their magnolia’s
manic tier, fired

lead pellets at the soles of his loafers. That day she lay
her bouquet-patterned
wedding china in their zucchini patch and stamped.
There were bare

feet in her garden, as her garden grew
gardenia-struck teeth—flung shards. My grandfather’s lungs
pulsed like a monarch

on a stone. He smoked
for fifty years, became a shrink. From the tree

he heard her shelling pistachios—the sound like someone’s back teeth
ground through nightmare. There were pistachios

gone brittle, blue at the lip. His mother,
pacing, craved salt as her daughter

cooled under the quilt. There were faceless Dutch girls
in patterns on the quilt, swallowed by bonnets, each one
spaced out from the others, as if lost

in so many separate snowfields. There were voids around each one

the shape of the distance between
a boy in the top of a magnolia and his mother’s salty

breath over her bb gun. There were tranquilizers so heavy
for years, her tongue

kept thrusting. Grandfather, it must
never have been still.

-Anna Journey

Read the Rumpus Review of Anna Journey’s If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →