Rhetorical Modes

This is how to move quick so that it doesn’t fall on you—Jamaica Kincaid


In my students’ essays,

it is still the long holiday in Iran.


Mother is still alive.


She hangs tea towels out to dry

in a summer house built over a river,

the name of which cannot be translated.


Cool air flows through the floorboards.


Closer by, on Craig Creek,

bass gather in the catalpa tree’s shade.


Blossoms fall on the water.


At edge of a refugee camp,

a little boy catches grasshoppers for his brother’s chickens,

proud of the fat ones, big as his hand.


The Bued (meaning Holy Water),

the most beautiful river in the Philippines,

is now polluted, but bathers and dolphins

and gleaners of fish once slid through warm shadows.


My mother was on the phone

and, then, she wasn’t.


The day my Paw Paw died.

The day my father died.

The day my grandfather died.


In the picture I am writing about,

she sits on that yellow couch I always remember,

wrapped in the shawl we gave her.


We didn’t know the brain tumor made him fall.

We didn’t know he was leaving until he did.


He was drinking wine out of a straw.

He was watching the Steelers play.

He was dying in the basement

and I went upstairs to get away.


Daddy pressed my face into the rug,

Saturday morning cartoons on the TV.

I fought back.

I fought even harder when it was my little sister.


Here is how you dye your hair.


Here is how you feed an old person.

Here is how you get your child up in the morning.

Here is how you make bread over a Sterno flame.


The lions waited in the grass.


We all walked together through the night.


You will know the chicken is done

when the meat is no longer pink.


Here is how you gut a deer.

Here is how you bury the guts.


I have a four-month-old baby.


I have a baby in the grave.


Her house always smelled of lemons.


We floated down the James River in canoes.

We slept on warm rocks, where, later, we learned

rattlesnakes liked to gather.


They drafted me after the war was done.

My job was to load the bodies.


I watched my sister’s eyes watch me.

The bonfire danced.


The sand burned my feet.


I had butterflies in my stomach.


Pretty soon he was drinking all day.


Words cannot describe.


Today I am here

because I survived.


My mother watches my child.


I follow the recipe,

but it doesn’t taste the same.


Annie Woodford lives Roanoke, Virginia, where she is a teacher at Virginia Western Community College. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Appalachian Heritage, The Comstock Review, Cold Mountain Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Waccamaw, The Normal School, Tar River Poetry, Bluestem, Rogue Agent, and Town Creek Poetry, among others.