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CONDENSED irises

In This Soil of Grief and Hope

For Mother’s Day, a look at mama through the eyes of North Carolina poets.

MY MOTHER DIGS UP IRISES WHEN SHE MOVES

By Joyce Compton Brown

They won’t keep quiet, these flowers
of my childhood that have bloomed
for generations of mothers and daughters.
My mother dragged them to a shabby house
she’d bought to spare her kids the farmhand life,
embedded irises beside the window,
next to her sleeping place.
Every year they speak of what she lost
and what she saved, these blooms, royal purple,
rich and golden in the center,
lush in this new soil of grief and hope.

new site curlicue
Photograph by Renee Woods Zamastil
Photograph by Renee Woods Zamastil

MY MOTHER’S VANITY

By Joyce Thornburg

Opening the drawers, veneer
peeling off, waiting

for the smell of old lacquer
and face powder to waft over me.

In the center drawer where she
kept bobby pins and costume

jewelry (the princess ring
I wore on my thumb)

I stash silk scarves and leather
gloves I never wear, half-

used eye shadows, mascaras
and lipsticks.

The drawers on either side:
deep and empty coffins.

The mirror rocks on its hinges—desilvered
edges fade to a tarnished black.

Gazing in the mirror, I see
my mother looking back—

Change your dress, stand up straight,
Comb your hair—echoes in the glass.

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Author Profile

Joyce Compton Brown grew up in a Southern agrarian family in North Carolina. For years she taught at a small college and has since published four collections of poems: Bequest (Finishing Line), Singing With Raw Edges (Main Street Rag), Standing on the Outcrop (RedHawk), and Hard-Packed Clay (RedHawk). A fifth, Against the Dam (Madville), is forthcoming in January 2025.

Author Profile

Joyce Thornburg is a poet and visual artist from Asheville, North Carolina where she has a working studio and gallery. She embarked on a nomadic lifestyle a year ago, spending time in Mexico, Portugal, and most recently New Orleans. Her poetry has appeared in The Great Smokies Review, NC Bards Poetry Anthology, and Bards Against Hunger.

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