B. Fulton Jennes is Poet Laureate of Ridgefield, CT, and poet-in-residence at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies, including Comstock Review, Connecticut River Review, Right Hand Pointing, Rust and Moth, SWIMM, Tar River Poetry, The Night Heron Barks, Tupelo Quarterly, and Extreme Sonnets II. Her collection Blinded Birds (Finishing Line Press) received the 2022 International Book Award for a poetry chapbook. Jennes’ poem “Glyphs of a Gentle Going” won the 2022 Lascaux Prize.
Her eggs cost a nickel more than store-bought. Still our parents
remained loyal customers after an embolism filled Charlie’s brain
with a hot cloud as he plowed. Sixty cents, Myrt—just laid
this morning Helen always vowed, thrusting a ratty egg carton
into our mother’s hands. Helen counted the coins in her palm
as she shuffled back to the farm in her too-large boots.
More than once, a sulfury miasma fouled the kitchen air
after one of Helen’s eggs was cracked on the skillet edge.
Fresh, my ass! our mother cursed, or Damn her old hens
for these bloody yolks.
At the first dance of freshman year,
I was caught smoking cigarettes with an older boy, sent home,
suspended for three days. My mother didn’t speak,
except to bark terse orders wax the kitchen floor hang up
those damned clothes get your crap off the table. But
on Sunday, Helen leaned over the back of our pew, whispered
word gets around, chuckled, flashed me a shame-on-you look,
then wriggled back into her pew. Through hymns, prayers,
a sermon, my mother’s face didn’t change. Back at home,
she rifled the pantry shelves, stuffed egg cartons into a paper bag,
huffed off to the burn bin, lit greedy red flames to devour them.
I shuffled out, stood beside her. Sorry I managed at last.
She turned to study this thing that had sprung from her, this egg
turned flesh and fault. Helen wanted those cartons back she said.
We watched the smoke drift to places we’d never been.
Third-generation country physician, office downstairs
in a dilapidated Rensselaer triple-decker, he left cigarettes
burning on the back of toilets next to paper cups meant
for urine samples. Doc took to riding a Harley on back roads
after work—helmetless, lit cigarette dangling from his lips,
tie blown back over his shoulder. Never waved.
What a clown our father muttered, but when the big horse barn
appeared in Doc’s west field, we knew he’d had his fill
of chicken pox and chest colds. Next: hay-mowing equipment.
An oversized corral. Green John Deere tractor.
Then a hand-painted sign: RODEO HERE SATURDAYS.
Call Doc HO-4545. We were 2000 miles from a stockyard but—
by God—a horde of horse-hauling trailers appeared that week.
We watched big-assed men in jeans and pointy-toed boots
race reluctant horses around barrels, toss ropes at anemic calves.
We never saw Doc Wilke ride one of his palominos,
much less appear on horseback for the Saturday crowd.
But he stood on the lowest rung of his split-rail fence,
tipped his high-crowned felt hat at each competitor, waved
hands clad in fringed white-leather gloves at the crowd.
The rodeos petered out then died forever by fall.
The next strep throat sent me to his office, Doc Wilke
was just a doctor again: white coat, clean fingernails,
stethoscope. The smell of disinfectant skulked in the air.
A cigarette slowly died on the toilet tank.