What I Already Knew

Laurie Junkins


                        for Nellie Ackerman


On the pond bank in watered sun

my grandmother threaded a slow-twisting worm

on my fishhook with her farm-wife hands.

I caught a bluegill, hauled it flopping and blank-eyed

onto the damp grass.  She worked it free,

stringed it on a stick through panting gills.


Later it lay on a blue-flowered plate,

stripped of face and tail, fins and innards,

turned to breaded filets with a side of ketchup.

Afternoons, I twisted belly-down in the backyard swing

while she picked marionberries for pie

in double-knit slacks and rubber boots.


Nights tucked into the sagging guest room bed,

I paged through her yellowed romance paperbacks,

imagined myself in an empire dress, clutched

to the chest of a fire-eyed rake.

But then in adolescent years I had time only

for movies with friends, sweaty school dances,


imagined myself clutched to the chest

of the dark-eyed boy in chemistry class.

I didn’t believe my mother that morning

when she said Grandma had died in her sleep.

I spent the funeral in my room listening

to Pink Floyd and catching my tears


in a pillow. “You’re selfish,” my mother said

afterward, standing in my doorway in a black

silk dress and heels. Telling me what I already knew.



Laurie Junkins holds an MFA in poetry from Northwest Institute of   Literary Arts (Whidbey Writer’s Workshop.) She has most recently been   published in Poet Lore, Rattle, Alehouse, and Literary Mama, among   others.  She has work forthcoming in Spillway, as well as Nimrod   International Journal as a semi-finalist in the Pablo Neruda Prize for   Poetry, and she is Managing Poetry Editor of Los Angeles Review. She  lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children.