National Poetry Month – Nancy Posey

One of the great things about attending local poetry readings and open mics is meeting other poets. I met Nancy when I read at Poetry Hickory at Taste Full Beans, hosted by Scott Owens. Nancy was a regular reader there, but has since moved to Tennessee. When Nancy smiles her eyes sparkle, and she immediately made me feel right at home in her poetry backyard.

In her book, Let the Lady Speak, Nancy channels the famous – like Zelda and Penelope – and the familial like her Grandma Sally Rose. Each lady speaks a truth, sometimes an uncomfortable one, and Nancy gives them a strong voice to speak it. There is joy and sorrow in Built by Hand; matter-of-fact acknowledgement coupled with curiosity in Breast Milk and Frozen Okra. The women come alive under Nancy’s care. They become women we care about, and want to sit and listen to as they tell their stories.

From Let the Lady Speak, published by Highland Creek Books, posted with the poet’s permission.

Wash Tub Ablutions

Out in Zip city, everyone knew

that cleanliness was next to

godliness, despite the lack of

modern conveniences, so by day

we relied on the little wooden

outhouse, a test of our bladders

(How long could we wait?) or

our lungs (How long could we

hold our breath?) and at night,

we used the slop jar she slid

beneath our bed. Bathing was

simpler; squatting in a galvanized

wash tub heated with water from

the wood stove as our granny

scrubbed us hard with a clean rag,

a rough brush, and lye soap.

Squealing in mock humiliation,

we relished the tales we’d tell,

returning to our homes in town

as if from some remote village

in Africa. Our skin still raw from

the scrubbing, surely then we felt

just a little closer to God.


Breast Milk and Frozen Okra

Easy enough to ignore the Philco deep freeze

tucked in our garage, bought to hold the catch

from a deep sea fishing trip or the impulse

purchase of a side of beef, the plastic bags

and boxes of some summer’s bounty –

just not this one. It keeps purring alone

out there unnoticed, until the rare urge

to deep clean strikes, and I find myself

digging through last year’s blueberries

or buy-one-get-one deals I couldn’t pass up,

then wondered why. And then I find them

there, near the bottom: three misshapen bags

of mother’s milk, stored unneeded for

my son now old enough to ride his bike

without the training wheels, and next to that,

freezer-burned okra, planted, picked,

mealed and bagged for me by my granny’s

liver-spotted hands I last saw folded across

her chest before the lid was lowered.


Feeling silly, first I cried, then laughed to think

of souvenirs that I might leave behind.


Herself, Only Thinner

She steps in front of the full-length mirror

in the store, glancing right then left

before turning sideways for a look.

Placing her hand over the bulge just

below her waist, she tallies every bite

she’s taken since yesterday, but can’t

account for the change.


Why can’t they see what she sees?

How can they deny what’s in plain sight?

She feels hunger gnaw at her insides,

giving herself a silent “Good girl” for

resisting every offer of just one sliver,

one tiny bite, for moving the food

around on her plate, cutting it into

smaller and smaller bites but eating

none, hoping that one day

she’ll see what they claim they see:

herself, only thinner.


Washtub Ablutions was previously published in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

Nancy answers my questions ~

I can’t remember when I didn’t write poetry! I started back writing seriously about ten years ago, but I remember that in high school I was in our high school beauty pageant (representing the debate club if that explains my presence there!) Instead of singing “Color My World” or something like that, I recited poems I had written. I’m sure they were typical high school poems, but I remember some of the popular girls coming up afterwards and telling me they wrote poems too.

I’ve been fortunate enough to share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with some of my favorite poets, since many of my favorites are those generous North Carolina poets. I’d love to spend some time with Natasha Tretheway, Billy Collins, or Ted Kooser to hear about how being National Poet Laureate changed them. I’d like to know how good it must feel to be able to introduce people to poetry in a fresh new way.




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