Snapping Beans

For Fay Whitt 

 

I snapped beans into the silver bowl
that sat on the splintering slats
of the porchswing between my grandma and me.
I was home for the weekend,
from school, from the North,
Grandma hummed "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"
as the sun rose, pushing its pink spikes
through the slant of cornstalks,
through the fly-eyed mesh of the screen.
We didn't speak until the sun overcame
the feathered tips of the cornfield
and Grandma stopped humming.  I could feel
the soft gray of her stare
against the side of my face
when she asked, How's school a-goin?
I wanted to tell her about my classes,
the revelations by book and lecture
as real as any shout of faith,
potent as a swig of strychnine.
She reached the leather of her hand
over the bowl and cupped
my quivering chin;
the slick smooth of her palm held my face
the way she held cherry tomatoes under the spigot,                                        
careful not to drop them,
and I wanted to tell her
about the nights I cried into the familiar
heartsick panels of the quilt she made me,
wishing myself home on the evening star.
I wanted to tell her
the evening star was a planet,                                                 
that my friends wore noserings and wrote poetry                                           
about sex, about alcoholism, about Buddha.
I wanted to tell her
how my stomach burned acidic holes
at the thought of speaking in class,
speaking in an accent, speaking out of turn,
how I was tearing, splitting myself apart
with the slow-simmering guilt of being happy
despite it all.
I said, School's fine.
We snapped beans into the silver bowl between us
and when a hickory leaf, still summer green,                                      
skidded onto the porchfront,                                                                      
Grandma said,
It's funny how things blow loose like that.

 

by Lisa Parker