A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Whatever great, great grandmother knew she could only speak in Pennsylvania Dutch. Her descendants, on nights around the kitchen table, told the one story remembered about her: how she stood at the banister, yelling something at the kids, even though they couldn’t understand. I picture her short as all the ladies in our family, short as I am. I see her leaning as into a heavy wind, wearing a greasy apron stenciled with a red Dutch floral pattern, and her dry, thinning hair in a bun. I hold this image close because there are no pictures, and what I have, shoves up from my imagination refusing its ignorance, conjuring a composite from my living grandmothers, from trips to antique shops where Amish farmers parked buggies in lots alongside cars, and hitched their horses to fence posts. They spoke a language that smelled of horsehair and tasted of apple butter and red beet eggs, a language secluded, and remote as a dream, traces of it threaded through me of how to say “thunderstorm” or ask, “Can you catch flies?” And now, even on days I’m fully awake there’s this mystery that trails back to a barn decorated with hex signs under the eaves, and my great great grandmother at the doors shouting to me something I’m meant to do.
Michael T. Young‘s books include The Infinite doctrine of Water (Terrapin Books, 2019). He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with his wife and children.
Copyright 2021 Michael T. Young