Jane Mead

World of Made and Unmade

Griffin Poetry Prize 2017
International Shortlist

Book: World of Made and Unmade

Poet: Jane Mead

Publisher: Alice James Books

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Jeramy Dodds reads from World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead

The third time my mother fell
she stopped saying she wanted to die.

Saying you want to die
is one thing, she pointed out,
but dying is quite another.

And then she went to bed.

                                             Outside her window the trees
                                             of her orchard are heavy
                                             with their load of ripening pecans.

                                             The shadow of the Organ Mountains
                                             creeps across the land,
                                             and the blue heron stands on the shore
                                             of the shrunken Rio Grande.

                                             Wichita, Chickasaw, Wichita, Shoshoni:
                                             her every tree, her every row.

I bring her coffee and a bun,
and a linen napkin, but –
Jesus Hapliod Christ,

as her grandfather the geneticist
would say, I mean how many
linen napkins does one person need?

How many linen napkins
the size of small tablecloths
does one person need – LVS

embroidered on each corner, and who
was L V S anyway?

Well, let’s see, my mother begins, LVS,
Lilian Vaughan Sampson, would have been
your great-grandmother, the name

going back to an orphan, a boy
who took his sister’s married name,
becoming Sampson in the ship’s log …

and in this way we lost track
of that side of the family.

                                             In the hills above Rincon
                                             a woman is leaving jugs of fresh water
                                             outside the Rincon Water Works

                                             before locking the metal doors.

                                             Rincon, where the Rio Grande
                                             turns back on itself –
                                             like the crook of an arm

                                             before heading south to become
                                             Rio Bravo del Norte. Rincon, a stop
                                             for water on the journey north.

The United States of America
Does not extend refugee status

To Mexicans.

And when there was nothing left
for her to do but die,
I brought my mother home with me.

I put her in the stone cabin
by the vineyard, cabin of her X
and now dead husband, my father,

cabin he called The Fortress
in those years his mother
came to live there. Came to die.

With the mediocre portraits
of her three children
hung at the foot of her bed,

I tried to joke that she now
was trapped into looking
at our heads. And, trapped thusly,

she did what nobody
could have predicted:

she developed a sense of humor.
An emergency sense of humor.

That dark room in which
we finally spoke.

From World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead
Copyright © 2016 by Jane Mead