Johnnie Clemens May
When we drive south for funerals, the only time we travel,
my father sings “Rye Whiskey”
as she taps ashes into the green Mercury’s tray.
At twilight the fog drifts like rings
over misted mountains where, as a child
growing up in a lean time, she used to reuse
thread from hems, and neighbors gave her
jars of pickles and green beans from their root cellar.
She once dreamed plantations
with rose gardens and tailored lawns,
read travel books on Paris and Rome,
but married a man who could not keep a job,
whose spirals of anger
she learned to climb
while ashtrays filled with stubs.
Three children and too many bills to escape.
Years later in the hospital,
veins scarred by chemo.
eyes closed, her face a pale moon,
she curls her fingers into circles.