“Untold Story” By Kory Wells

 

 

Untold Story

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
                             narrative possibilities
         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