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Saturday Morning Catechisms, a poem by Marla J. Jarmer

Saturday Morning Catechisms

Sometimes it was cattle,

And sometimes it was horses, but

It was always a row of

Old men in their pearl-button western

Shirts and Levi’s,

Smoking cigars and pipe tobacco,

Making it impossible for me to breathe,

Braids sweaty and itching under 

My Dekalb seed corn cap, 

A Peanuts Magic Slate from the Hi-Lo Grocery

And a flat Pepsi watered down by

Ice long-melted to occupy me.

Sometimes it was the errant ash

Of your Camel alighting on the

Back of my hand,

The scent of corn still green in the shocks 

Flowing in through

The vents as we flew down

A back country road, 

Johnny Cash in the speakers, 

You at the wheel, 

Me, shoes off, feet barely reaching the dash,

Head hanging dog-like out the window,

Hair tangling back behind me,

Wondering what it would feel like 

To press the Camel’s cherry tip into my flesh.

Other times, it was in the cold mists of March,

Tramping down aisles of still-dead grass

Of a farm two counties over,

Peering into the isles of someone’s life,

Tossed into boxes on groaning tables

Fashioned from plywood and sawhorses.

Looking for the American dream

Among projects half-done,

Regretful purchases, and items last new in 1957.

Standing flamingo-like,

Waiting on you to settle up,

A ten-cent cup of cocoa warming my hands,

The pain of frigid earth 

Shooting up my legs

Because in my hurry dressing,

I forgot to put on socks before

Sliding bare feet into thin rubber boots.



Marla J. Jarmer is a professor of rhetoric and composition, the writing center director, and the editor of written works for Waiting for Rain at Danville Area Community College in Danville, Illinois, where she has been awarded both the A. L. Webster Endowed Chair (2016) and the Dorothy Duley Endowed Chair (2014 and 2017). She currently serves as the assistant editor as Liaison for Two-Year College Caucus at AWP, is the co-editor and a contributing author of The Bully Pulpit, Presidential Speeches, and The Shaping of Public Policy (Roman and Littlefield 2015), and has published works of poetry, short fiction, and creative non-fiction, most recently in The Cider Press Review (February 2023). She is currently working on a multi-genre text about life with chronic illness (hemiplegic migraine and fibromyalgia).