Creativity Storytelling

Sleeping on Arch Street


I slept on a cot near my grandmother’s bed in a room that smelled like eucalyptus. The aluminum frame squeaked when I moved, despite my small size and efforts to keep quiet. My grandfather slept in the adjoining room, his presence as unnerving as the Jesus portrait on the wall. The story goes he woke her once with a pitcher of water, threw it on the bed so she’d make his breakfast. I wonder if the train whistle ever disturbed him, pulled him down the tracks to the steel mill, back to the stacks and hot slag where he belonged.




©2022, Jen Payne.

Books Creativity Poetry

12 – Grave Tenders

She had promised them
and so each Easter
we gather ourselves
and the pots of
sweet Hyacinths,
the cut wire-hanger hooks,
the glass jars of water
and drive together

to Holy Savior first,
where we clear off the old stone
of her mother and father
secure flowers to the iron red earth
for them first and always
and then for her brother;
we bow our heads,
she prays and crosses herself
once for each of them,
touches the stones before leaving
as if to say, Nice to see you,
and I’ll be back.

It’s a slow and somber drive
then to Memorial Park,
past the fireman statue
to her husband’s grave.
She tends and weeds,
seems not to notice her name
carved in stone by his,
remarks at the well-mowed grass
before we leave,

drive by the place where my Dad
played cowboys and Indians,
riding the headstone
shaped like a stagecoach,
where he left toys guns in the grass
for my grandmother to find
by flashlight and shadows.

We leave hyacinths on his grave, too,
kneel together on the damp ground,
clean red dust from the bronze plaque,
touch-spell his name one more time,
listen to cars passing, and crows,
and weep fresh tears,
for this, the hardest tending.


Photo Photo by Brett Sayles. Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.