Joyce Wilson

The Summer We Were All Created Equal

The trouble with my mother was that she
was nice, especially to those with whom
she had no common ground. She would not see
how her ambition muddied up the room.

Her dissertation deadline loomed ahead.
My sisters both were home from summer camp.
Resuming school was filling us with dread.
We needed help and sought a guiding lamp.

Enter Emmaline, expertly coiffed.
She came at nine and planned to work all day.
Each time she looked around, she wheezed and coughed,
expressing what she called her allergy.

I’m thinking of the many dogs we kept,
the hamsters busy in their smelly cages,
the chicken roosting where my sister slept,
the cats who dozed through all our household rages.

By noon, Emmaline had called her son,
rejecting the demands of our abode.
To pay her for the work she might have done,
our mother wrote a check, to share the load.

Leaving, Emmaline was not much richer.
The engine revved, the radio was live.
She turned around to wave, her final gesture
as the car churned up our gravel drive.

She left us in the prison of our home.
Maneuvering the clutter of our lair,
we joked about the missing fine-toothed comb
that smoothed the lice eggs clinging to our hair.

Then all at once the summer’s ending came.
There was no further denouement nor sequel.
We saw how much our lives were not the same,
the summer we were all created equal.

My Grandparents' Last Days

After Emily

They were confined to the Home for the Elderly
where they died inside, protected from the elements,
monitored by relatives, cared for by nurses.

Days before his death, my grandfather left his room
and ran through the streets of Philadelphia where
he was tracked down and brought back by the police.

It seemed he was trying to make his escape.
But from what? From the institution—?
From illness—? from uncertainty—?


My grandmother lived for another decade at the Home.
Despite my mother’s regular trips to visit her,
they did not recognize each other.

How I treasure the tale of her ninetieth birthday
when she rose out of the fog of her dementia
and danced the Charleston.

How many elderly women share my grandmother’s agility,
who might have been a dancer?


She was always quick to step on agile feet.
She was energy in motion, shuffling overtime.

Did she dance at the nursing home to escape her death
or did she dance for her salvation, to meet it face to face?

Was she dancing the quick step in the embrace of the Lord our God?


Joyce Wilson is editor of The Poetry Porch, a literary magazine on the Internet since 1997. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, among them The Alabama Literary Review, The Lyric, and Poetry Ireland. Her chapbook The Need for a Bridge and a full-length collection Take and Receive were both published in 2019. She presented "On Spring Valley Road," a call and response poem at the Spring Valley AME Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, on June 18, 2022, to commemorate its restoration. A recent selection of poems The Springhouse 3 (2023) is available through The Poetry Porch. Her poem "The Other and the One" won the Roberts Memorial Prize with The Lyric in 2022.


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Jen Karetnick
Jean L. Kreiling
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Joyce Wilson
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The latest addition to the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Database is Rachel Wetzsteon by Patricia Behrens. The Poetry by the Sea Conference is scheduled next year from May 21-24.

Maureen Alsop:I often create visual art as a memorialization to the closure of a written work. However, many of these visual pieces arrived as a trajectory while writing a larger 'work-in-progress.' The text within the visual poems do not speak to the content of the larger work but are autonomous, acting as bridge between the written and visual bodies. The original text draws upon ghosts in the hall of battles. It is a glittering solar analemma, an unattested revolution, an infinity reflected in ellipses, omissions, and disintegration. A full collection representing many of these images came to fruition recently in Tender to Empress (Wet Cement Press). Yet the act of creating from text continues, as the digital collages here also include newer works based on miscellaneous notes, old emails, and most recently a short story, "The Unnamed Woman of Mary River" (forthcoming at South Dakota Review). The title to these are based on cargo ships which I pass on my daily commute from island to mainland. These small cities of people, afloat for weeks on end out at sea, are a looming story that embarks and disembarks in my imagination.

The visual poems are crafted under the mechanics of "Écriture Féminine," literally "women's writing." These principals advance a feminine perspective. I write from parallels, cyclical slips through stream of conscious and fragmentary processes. The writing exists as rough erotic. As talisman. Interpersonal in their ruptures and syntax, soft in their discomforts; a splintered narrative. Through writing, I can go anywhere and never be found.

32 Poems
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