by Gail Thomas
When he called her high-strung, I imagined a horse
rearing up white-eyed, not the woman who dusted
down walls every week and sprawled on the floor
braiding strips of wool into a rug.
When I answered the pay phone in the hall, he
stumbled with the news -- break-down. I saw
thin wires snapping, her still body in a white
room. Because you moved away. When I moved
farther, she offered the rug and wrote a letter,
because you were a cold child. Now I change
her diaper, trim chin hair, bring a cactus with
one yellow flower. She calls me angel, my angel.
* * * * *
“Braided” is from the author’s collection Waving Back (Turning Point, 2015).
Gail Thomas, http://www.gailthomaspoet.com/, has published four books of poetry, Odd Mercy (Headmistress Press, 2016), Waving Back (Turning Point, 2015), No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley (Haley’s, 2001) and Finding the Bear (Perugia Press, 1997).
Waving Back was named a Must Read for 2016 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival. Odd Mercy won the Charlotte Mew Prize of Headmistress Press and its “Little Mommy Sonnets” won Honorable Mention in the Tom Howard/ Margaret Prize for Traditional Verse.
Thomas’s work has appeared in many journals and anthologies including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Calyx, The North American Review, Hanging Loose, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Individual poems have won national prizes and Thomas was awarded residencies at The McDowell Colony and Ucross.
Her book, No Simple Wilderness, about the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930’s has been taught in college writing and interdisciplinary courses. As one of the original teaching artists for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Elder Arts Initiative, Thomas led workshops and collaborated with dancers, musicians and storytellers in schools, nursing homes, hospitals and libraries across the state.
She speaks at conferences and poetry festivals, reads her work widely in community and academic settings, and lives in Northampton, MA.