The First of May

by Janet Ford

A blackberry cane I brushed aside
snagged my sleeve; I reeled,
conceived of jagged claws and fanged jaws
honed in on me.

Then passing through a door
I was stopped short
by an unseen latched screen.

A ponderous force moves in everything;
twice today I felt it move in me
and the world unspooled itself—
now I see

that the trees are tired of carrying the sky,
even the hillside heaves a kind of consent
and the evening star was up all night;
she’s pale,

faded, like a tear in a long blue skirt.

Janet Ford has lived in rural Alexander County, North Carolina, since the early seventies. She has been collecting the stories and folklore of her neighbors there for over forty years, and their daily lives find voice in her poetry.

About The First of May—Sometime in her youth, it is inevitable that an awareness of conception and labor begins to take form in a young girl’s mind. This has been known to happen over the course of a single day.