a friend just sent me a gross
greeting card, picture one: a cow
snoozing on her couch udder up
a hoof carelessly hung toward
the floor a sly bovine dipping
that hoof into a pan of presumably
warm water picture two:
eyes startlingly awake and four
fountains of milk spurting from
her titties you know what mitch
that card has truth in it as any
lactator can tell you you hear a
baby cry any baby not just your
own baby and suddenly your
blouse is dripping wet
© Jacqueline Jackson 2006
I had a mother who stayed home and baked cookies, polished floors, and, I realize now, rarely left the house. She had one tube of red lipstick and pair of black pumps for those rare occasions when she ventured out. Later, as the cost of living rose and the number of children in the family grew, my mother got a job in a factory, winding coils for the phone company. She worked nights. My father worked days. Sometimes I would sit up when the house was quiet and wait for Mom to come home. She was exhausted and near tears sometimes, sore all over from eight hours of kicking a punch press. But she had something she’d never had before: She had something to talk about. She talked about the foreman and the other women and the time-study expert who tried to inflict his own form of efficiencies on my left-handed mother. She started meeting friends for lunch. The job that gave her aches and pains gave her also a place in the world. Bonnie Madison saw that same transformation in her mother, Gladys, who is the subject of this poem. — Carol Manley, guest editor
Gladys sold underwear
for Monkey-Wards, kept the
order books at night,
moved the stock from shelves to
bins till her back gave out.
I saw her different under the
high tin ceilings, her hustle
prouder than at home.
Exclusive dealer to the deaf, she
spoke their way on fingers that later
spelled “Enough,” her name in Ward’s was
Madison, Dad’s name, her respect.
She introduced me to her gang,
I tall and loose beside her
starched pride. Suppers
she served us cake from
B. & Z. and talked like only
Dad had talked before.
Bonnie Madison was a local poet and a survivor. She now survives on another plane. “Gladys” was originally published in the brainchild book, All the Women Were Heroes (1997, Rosehill Press).
Send submissions to Jacqueline Jackson Presents People’s Poetry to email@example.com or to Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705.