“Sunday Morning” by Jeanne Bryner
Mama stands blotting her red lipstick
and the tired Bible waits on our gray
kitchen table. We have a nickel
for the collection plate. We whine
because Ben gets to carry the nickel.
Ben will drop it, we say. Mama is firm.
We wear strawberry pink dresses, the boys wear
blue sailor suits. Bacon grease is Mama’s scent.
Nancy scrapes cornmeal mush into Sam’s bowl,
he gulps. Glass lies broken in the trash
and blood stains dry on our green couch.
Sunday morning means the end of Saturday night
pain. Mama buttons her aqua seersucker skirt.
She glides like a wave from the ocean,
presses tan make-up over her left shiner,
and her ice bag sweats on the toilet.
My Mama sings softly beneath her wide-brimmed
straw hat, Oh come to the church in the wildwood.
Mrs. Harvey points at my Mama, and the brown suit
preacher pounds his Methodist pulpit
screaming about hell’s fury. . . .
My Mama’s hair shines, the color of honey.
She quiets my brothers. My Mama’s pancake make-up
melts from all this talk of hell.
Her left eye’s a slit under a purple avalanche,
and purple is the color for the church,
the color for royalty.
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Jeanne Bryner’s Artist Statement: So often, adults must witness for the children they have been. They can show how those with very little power learn the lessons of silence.
Jeanne Bryner’s family was part of Appalachia’s out migration. A graduate of Trumbull Memorial Hospital’s School of Nursing and Kent State University’s Honors College, she has received writing fellowships from Bucknell, Ohio Arts Council and Vermont Studio Center. Her books in print are Breathless, Blind Horse: Poems, Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated and Remembered, Eclipse: Stories, No Matter How Many Windows, Early Farming Woman, The Wedding of Miss Meredith Mouse and Both Shoes Off. Her new play, “Foxglove Canyon,” was adapted from her short story by the same name. Her work has been adapted for
the stage and performed in many nationally and at Edinburgh, Scotland’s 2005 Fringe Festival.