She was religious about reading aloud—
Ann Landers’ advice in the Free Press
Jello salad recipes in Good Housekeeping
letters and postcards from cousins
and one odd relation all the way in Australia.
But neither of us ever said a word about
the National Enquirer
which she’d pick up in the Winn Dixie checkout
next to the gum and chocolate bars
as if it were essential as milk and sugar.
Back from the grocery
on a summer afternoon
she’d start supper
and I’d slip away
to the over-warm sanctuary
of her modest living room:
thin floral carpet knotty pine walls
and a nubby mauve sofa where I—
a sensitive and impressionable child—
would spread the tabloid
and kneel before it
to absorb cover to cover
and back again
until my knees ached
the gospel of my disbelief:
a moon-landing hoax
an alien abduction a two-headed
motherless kitten nursing
a domesticated squirrel
and of course the secret
lives of stars.
What is it that makes us want to swallow
a story whole? To think
only one version can be true?
We were not true disciples
but my grandmother tended the altar of
this woman with an eighth-grade education
who I never saw reading a book.
About the Author: Kory Wells is a poet, writer, storyteller, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. In 2017 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also founded and manages a reading series. Her poetry collection Sugar Fix is forthcoming from Terrapin Books. Read more of her work at korywells.com.
Image Credit: John Vachon “Grandmother MacDuffey with blackberries she has picked from nearby swamps. Irwinville, Georgia” (1938) The Library of Congress