Poetry by Joette Varnado

Art by Eugenia Yoh / eugeniayoh.com





It's the winding road I remember, 
the young pine trees given over 
              to the wisteria vines, 
       a thousand purple blooms, 
their breath sweet and sharp 
              like an Old Fashioned nestled 
       around a single cube of ice 
laced with sugar swirl. The rock 
              stream guttering into the pasture after 
a good rain. There were two horses 
              with funny names on that piece 
       of land, the bay and the black, 
gated by the blackberry thorn fence, 
              their canes that shot between the wire. 
       How many summers did I comb 
down the line with the bay licking 
              the back of my neck, snorting in my ear? 
       How many bucketfulls did I present 
to my mother with bloody fingers 
              dyed purple? How old was I when 
       I learned to live without a father? 
How many times did I chase kittens 
              behind the house with melting Twinkies 
       in my hands for bait? How hard 
did my mother swat them 
              for shredding the loaves of 
       bread after I begged her to let them 
wild and loose into the house? 
              I can see them all clearly now, 
       white paws high tailing through 
the door, the shape of them, 
              like tiny nimble ghosts, disappearing 
       beneath the giant magnolia tree 
blooming white in the sun just 
              beyond the fence line. They are 
       blowing right past the kibble tins, 
they are leaving me for good.


Joette Varnado earned her MFA in poetry at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale where she serves as Assistant Editor at Crab Orchard Review. A native of Houston, Texas, she is the second place winner of the 2020 Louisiana State Poetry Society Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and her poetry has either appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, The American Journal of Poetry, The Midwest Quarterly, Encore Prize Poems, Inscape and elsewhere. Joette and her new husband hope to travel abroad one day.