by Sandy Coomer

My grandfather let it slip like a joke

that years ago in Widener’s Valley,

back in that Virginia sawmill town,

Grandmother drove herself to the college

at Emory and had a conversation with the dean,

convincing him with Appalachian logic

to let her audit classes for free.

She soaked up the things they taught

like sorghum on biscuits, like hog lard

simmering with beans. In her stiff bodice

and ebony skirt, she turned away

from the boys’ snickers and didn’t lay

her usual sharp tongue to whipping

those scalawags.  She held her strong back

straighter, pointed her chin to the purple clouds

stewing over the hollow like she knew

something special and would keep it close.

When I got the nerve, I asked her why

she’d done that peculiar thing, let slip

my secret wish to stand at the college

in Jefferson City and learn my way out

of this mountain life.  She patted my knee,

leaned into my shoulder, You won’t be catching

much of nothing chasing dreams around here.

Then she stopped, blue eyes long over the hills,

her voice low as the whisper I keep hearing

on lonesome nights, but child,

you keep on chasing them anyway.

Sandy Coomer is a poet, mixed media artist, and endurance athlete. Her poems have most recently been published in Big MuddyIcarus Down ReviewHypertrophic Literary Magazine, and Main Street Rag. She is the author of two poetry collections: Continuum (Finishing Line Press) and The Presence of Absence (2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry).