The Disappearance of Chicory
It was way too soon for the dry season,
yet she tried to teach me to make lace,
weaving the threads around small nubbins, but
I’m stubborn, I’m a slow learner, I wanted instead
to comb through censuses, untangle the charades.
The knotted legends of grandmothers lured.
Her films of disguises shimmied,
familiar rumors as convenient cover-ups.
Was she really an orphan left on a doorstep?
Didn’t she mingle her first and middle names,
change their spelling at least a few times?
Or was it phonetic, variable?
What is the difference between a D and a T?
Is it only a matter of where you place your tongue?
Did she learn to say in sweet stumbling English:
Please may I have more porridge please?
What happens to a donkey hit repeatedly with a stick?
Was someone buried at sea?
What someone ceased to breathe in the hold of a slow ship?
How does one write the equation of juxtaposed images?
I scan the low rock ledges
for tints of vein blue chicory.
Its roots have been pulled and poisoned.
Its name was changed to weed.
I had tried to soak and grow the cuttings,
dearly hoping to rescue.
She showed the white side, hid the seeds.
I will never know.
Ann Neuser Lederer has the following to say about her poem: “The Disappearance of Chicory” is a collage of related incidents, selected because of insistent re-imaginings, or other proximities. As with many of my poems, it is composed from perceptions of true events, sometimes shaded by distant memories or by precision of immediate documentations such as notes scribbled on the back of an envelope, typed hastily in an email, lovingly handwritten into a weathered journal, or virtually inscribed wherever such things collect while swimming a mile’s worth of laps at dawn. When combined in a small space and encircled by a frame, these snippets become a new object, a whole as unique to itself as a xeroxed page from the 1920 census, or as wildflowers plucked, then pressed, and then presented under glass.
Ann Neuser Lederer was born in Ohio and has also lived and worked in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Kentucky. She is a Registered Nurse certified in oncology, and hospice palliative care. Prior to nursing she earned degrees in Anthropology. From early childhood she has loved to hear, read and write poems. She has kept a journal, which sometimes includes notes and drafts for poems, since an English class assignment at age sixteen. She likes to swim laps, take walks, and set goals. One goal is to read 50 books per year (not counting poetry.) Her nonfiction and poetry appear in online and print journals; anthologies such as Bedside Guide, Letters To The World, The Country Doctor Revisited, and Best of the Net; and in her chapbooks Approaching Freeze, The Undifferentiated, and Weaning the Babies. Additional information and links available at her site.