The final prompt was based on a prompt written by Jacqueline Saphra, and featured in this group of prompts published back in 2015 by The Poetry Society of the U.K. This prompt challenged me to write a poem in the form of a series of directions describing how a person should get to a particular place.
The first thought I had was going to grandma’s house. It was the longest drive I ever experienced as a child and seemed to take forever. But our drive to grandma’s found us on freeways and driving through cities and that just wasn’t where my imagination was going.
I imagined a life with a southern mamaw living deep in the swampy, mysterious woods— a mamaw who bean a boar broadside with her 22 and still cook up the best biscuits and gravy you ever ate.
The person closest to the “Mamaw” of this poem was the Granny of my dear friend Edwin. One spring break my college roommate and I joined Edwin as he headed down to Tennesee to visit his granny.
Granny was pretty amazing. It was the first time I ever shot a 22 and also the first time I ever saw a grandma chewing tobacco on the back porch. I only ever met her that one time, but she made a lasting impression on me.
Even though this poem is completely fictictious, it touches on grief and loss and memory in a way that I connect with on a deep level. Perhaps you will, too.
Mamaw Mamaw and I, we were close, you know; we hung together like clothes on the line. we were like a pair of matching socks waiting for our next new pair of shoes. Getting to Mamaw’s house entailed many a hurdle. Oh the adventure of it! We’d hop in our old chevy truck and pick up Trail Ridge Road just east of the swampland. After what seemed a month long drive, we’d begin to see the low sandy ridges and marshland. Oh the musty scent of wetlands! Mamaw had taught me all the names of the trees and as we passed by, I would recite their names aloud— bald cypress, black gum, the giant tupelo, and the weeping willows reaching to caress the roof of our car. Oh the melody of their names! The roads got bumpier and the woods grew thicker— the ground grew wetter and the vines and overgrowth took over the whole road sometimes. By evening, we let the stars guide as they twinkled and pointed the way. Oh the sky went on forever! Finally we would arrive, to the long winding driveway just as the blackness of night reached its brilliant peak. Mamaw would come out wiping her hands on her apron and smiling broadly. Oh the scent of wood stove and coffee! Mamaw and I would spend our time together enjoying the breeze from the front porch while we shucked beans. Mamaw would talk forever about nothing and everything. Oh the glow of her rosy-cheeked smile! But that fresh breeze called life, sometimes it freezes us solid, you know— I miss her so, especially on those days when soft breezes blow. It was so much easier to hang on the line with her by my side. Oh the joy of her company! Some days I feel there’s no protection from the storms, no opinion offered whether or not it was asked for, no safety in the swell of her full skirt. It’s hard, you know. Oh so hard to go on when she’s gone! -A Draft Poem by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
I’d love to read the story of one of your best memories. If you want to share, drop it in the comment section below.