A Poem a day—April 9

LMU English Department

Snapping Beans

For Fay Whitt
by Lisa Parker

I snapped beans into the silver bowl
that sat on the splintering slats
of the porchswing between my grandma and me.
I was home for the weekend,
from school, from the North,
Grandma hummed “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”
as the sun rose, pushing its pink spikes
through the slant of cornstalks,
through the fly-eyed mesh of the screen.
We didn’t speak until the sun overcame
the feathered tips of the cornfield
and Grandma stopped humming.  I could feel
the soft gray of her stare
against the side of my face
when she asked, How’s school a-goin?
I wanted to tell her about my classes,
the revelations by book and lecture
as real as any shout of faith,
potent as a swig of strychnine.
She reached the leather of her hand
over the bowl and cupped
my quivering chin;
the slick smooth of her palm held my face
the way she held cherry tomatoes under the spigot,                                        
careful not to drop them,
and I wanted to tell her
about the nights I cried into the familiar
heartsick panels of the quilt she made me,
wishing myself home on the evening star.
I wanted to tell her
the evening star was a planet,                                                 
that my friends wore noserings and wrote poetry                                           
about sex, about alcoholism, about Buddha.
I wanted to tell her
how my stomach burned acidic holes
at the thought of speaking in class,
speaking in an accent, speaking out of turn,
how I was tearing, splitting myself apart
with the slow-simmering guilt of being happy
despite it all.
I said, School’s fine.
We snapped beans into the silver bowl between us
and when a hickory leaf, still summer green,                                      
skidded onto the porchfront,                                                                      
Grandma said,
It’s funny how things blow loose like that.

Lisa J. Parker is a writer, musician and photographer born and raised in Fauquier County, Virginia. She is the author of the book This Gone Place, published by MotesBooks in 2010, which won the Weatherford Award in Literature.  “Snapping Beans” first appeared in Parnassus: Poetry In Review as the Randall Jarrell Prize in Poetry winner in 1997. It has since been published in multiple editions of Bedford/St. Martin's Press anthologies The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Poetry: An Introduction and Literature To Go.  The poem is published here with permission from the author.

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