Poetry ~ Marianne Mersereau
Miracle in the Chicken Coop Chapel
“With God, all things are possible.”
~Jesus (Matthew 19:26)
I’m sure many miracles
took place in the chickens’ home-
like the narrow escape from a fox or snake,
but the one that stands out
is the tongue that was reattached.
My aunt tells the story this way:
How her sister fell and sliced her tongue
almost completely off. My grandmother
picked her up and ran into the chicken coop,
praying in the name
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost
as the hens squawked their
praise in that sacred space. The torn
tongue was made whole again.
When you live far from the doctors
and you don’t have a car nor money to pay them,
you learn to believe in impossibilities.
What You Can Do
when you have to
will surprise you.
My mother assures me of this-
her story as proof.
Raised on less than a dime
in a house with no indoor plumbing,
her father died when she was nineteen,
his neck broken in a car wreck.
She never talked about him much,
just did what she had to do:
joined the Women’s Army Corps,
served as a post-WWII nurse.
Of the wounded soldiers she said,
They just kept coming.
I surprised myself a few times
doing what I had to do.
I trace the letter M on my palm:
Letting her go was hardest.
War Ghosts in the Attic
We grew up hearing the story
of the wooden legs
and how they used to be in the attic
of our old farmhouse
and got up to walk around at night.
They belonged to the former owner,
a Veteran of WWI who lost his real legs
on a battlefield in France.
My father tried to convince my mother
that the attic sounds were mice,
but they haunted her, so he burned them
in a bonfire and the attic became quiet
but the ghosts from my father’s past
kept walking through his dreams,
crying out in his sleep, reminding him
of how he’d lost pieces of his right leg
on a battlefield in WWII.
He Was Most Afraid of Lightning
Not of tumbling on the tractor
getting bitten by a copperhead
running out of money
having no health or crop insurance
losing the tobacco plants
to cut worms,
black shank disease or drought.
No, my father feared the dark clouds
electric air, flattened fields
cows sheltering underneath trees
the sudden jagged flash
of red orange yellow missile
searching the ground
for the tallest target.
We sat once on the porch
watching a storm,
saw a lone hay bale on a distant field
become a torch and my brother
recalled the terror
of being struck
while riding his bike,
he was alive to tell us about it.
Just another sunny day -
like December 7, 1941
was just another day.
I speak into the cell phone.
He’s eighty-four and far away.
I try to imagine him here
after the bombing,
his ship leaving for Okinawa.
He tells me that was a long time ago.
You want a souvenir, perhaps a cap?
His souvenir is the scar on his leg,
seared into memory.
Forty days in the hospital
like Jesus in the desert.
As kids, we knew which side of his lap
could not hold us.
I buy him a cap that he wears with pride,
try to feel his footprints on Waikiki-
Give thanks his name is not on the memorial.
Marianne Mersereau grew up in the Southern Highlands of Appalachia and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author of the chapbook, Timbrel (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her writing has appeared in The Hollins Critic, Bella Grace, Entropy, Still Point Arts Quarterly, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Deep South Magazine, Seattle’s Poetry on Buses, and elsewhere, and is anthologized in Public Poetry Houston’s Anthology, Enough. She was awarded a Second Place Prize in Artists Embassy International’s Dancing Poetry Contest in 2018.