William Greenway

High Heaven

by William Greenway

                                                                     for Rosalee

                              He who loves give a hostage to fortune.

Another stinking diaper to thank
God for, why we traveled all the way to Bethlehem,
Alabama, to get this,
slept in a crummy motel for a month waiting
for her to be born, mud-wrestled every bureaucrat
in the state, pressing inky fingers on every piece
of paper they sent to Montgomery, endured stares
and questions: “Is she colored?” the white maid asks—
a word I haven’t heard since my Georgia
cracker youth. Then another:
“But she’s a pretty little pickaninny.
And don’t ever cut her hair—
it’ll just make it kinky.”

We named her after Rosa Parks and Harper Lee.
The old man in the doctor’s office says,
“She gonna be a Coca-Cola redbone,”
a term we’re never heard.
“You better keep them boys away.”

Now, she’s crawling into every trouble there is,
and I remember why I’ve waited this long
for what I always feared:
loving something so much,
you could die from it, this joy
at the last, at sixty-six.

I always wondered what would “curdle the blood,”
but midway through the baby poem I swore
I’d never write, and halfway down
the hall, she’s trying to unplug the smoke
detector, and shrieking to high heaven, not
in pain, but simply because she’s found
her new voice, her own language,
and is already on her way, away.

William Greenway author photoWilliam Greenway’s tenth collection, Everywhere at Once, won the Poetry Book of the Year Award from the Ohio Library Association, as did his eighth collection, Ascending Order. Both are from the University of Akron Press Poetry Series. His newest book, The Accidental Garden, is forthcoming from Word Press, and Selected Poems is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press, both in 2014. Greenway’s critical work, The Poetry of Personality: The Poetic Diction of Dylan Thomas, is forthcoming from Rowan and Littlefield in 2014. His publication credits include Poetry, American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Georgia Review, Missouri Review, Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, and Shenandoah. He is the recipient of the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors’ Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer’s Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Greenway was named Georgia Author of the Year. He is Distinguished Professor of English at Youngstown State University.

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