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Issue 107, Winter 2019

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Grandma’s House,
Camden, SC

six year old me
pinched the stem of the honeysuckle
and slid it away from its horn
a trombone about to crescendo
good nectar on my pink tongue
even though my grandma said don’t
eat anymore sweets before dinner
even though she said don’t go
tasting berries and leaves from 
trees you’re not a barbarian
I figured a flower was
neither candy nor Sycamore
I figured its name was instruction
and it would be cruel for us not
to suck so my sister and cousin and
I tasted the whole golden bush
that lined the chain link fence
we tiptoed around 
just to peek
into the window of the 
neighbor woman’s dark house
perhaps catch a glimpse of her
and pray not to turn into gray
stone since she was a witch
since her long silver strands
covered her face, which
we’d never seen before
which was the only
evidence we used to confirm
her witchy ways, even though
grandma promised to
whip us real good with a switch
we’d pick
ourselves from the limb 
of the wintered crape myrtle 
if she caught
us messing with the neighbor
woman again
and I miss those days
of broken rules
in order to taste delicious
of believing the worlds
inside our brains 
back when 
I was going to be
president of the United States
and an author and 
cure cancer
on the side
back when 
I slipped into a clumsy dress
I built out of magnolia 
leaves, strings and staples
so I could marry Thomas
in the backyard 
back when we adorned
our heads with imaginary
crowns and called each
other queens
and though
even then
people hijacked planes 
blood terrorized bodies
a guy named Ted left boxes
exploding in parking lots
even then my dad sifted through threats
from klansmen
even then I learned
to stand without
crumbling all the eggshells 
on the floor of our house
and yet the scariest
scary we knew then
lived next door to grandma
and we wanted
to look her in the eyes
and scream
and run fast from
her spell deep into our
thick giggles
& at night all the cousins
blew kisses to the
earth’s ebony ceiling
telling the glimmering buttons
that keep it together
thank you, thank you
thank you
for how you hold the sky
how no matter what
you never let it fall down
and defeat us

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Ciona Rouse

Ciona Rouse is co-host of the podcast Re/Verb and the author of Vantablack (Third Man Books, 2017).