Jo Taylor

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POETRY

Conviction

After Margaret Atwood

All those times I was bored,
mind wandering, wandering,
many times out of the physical
space which was our living room
where he was on his knees in
the evenings, head bent, talking
more to the wooden floor
than to the Heavenly Father
he addressed, always pointing out
his shortcomings or pouring over
his guilt or begging for a cleansing
to make him ivory-snow white
I, too, bowed my head, lower,
lower into my lap, whispering
to myself, enough, enough, please,
enough. You’ve reminded Him
already that He knows you,
your every thought, that He’s
numbered the hairs on your now balding
head
. I count the carpet’s hairs and the lines
in my palms and imagine the freckles
on the little finger of the one I would
one day marry. One, two, three…
forty-nine, fifty, fifty-one
. Sometimes
the prayer warrior would speak
in a mysterious language, frightening,
yet musical, captivating, enticing,
like Handel’s Messiah,
and I would be drawn back to his voice
of steel and see his face lifted, his arms, too,
communing with a world of which I was not
a part. Why do I remember the scene
more reverentially now, see him more
affectionately? I could not wait for the amen
when I would shake out my leg, long asleep,
and head fast to my room to read
Pride and Prejudice. Now I long for
words of conviction and hunger for things
unseen.


“What My Sister Taught Me,” read by Jo Taylor.

What My Sister Taught Me

Take it to the limit, one more time. ―The Eagles

She taught me to rumba, to pick a partner from the crowd,
to coax him to the floor, to move carefree and wild, like water
on a hot griddle, laughing all the while. She taught me to show up

and show off. To star. (Even in family photographs, she stood out,
her dark corkscrew curls, her big brown eyes, playful, inviting,
her charisma coloring the card stock.) She taught me big. Big

hair, big ideas, big heart. To climb into bed with the dying,
to stroke their faces, to caress with kisses even when the verdict
is out on the disease’s power to transmit. She taught me to fancy

mustard greens and collards and Krispy Kreme and Diet Coke.
To believe in yourself when, like an exploding soda can,
the world spits and spews no, can’t, impossible, it won’t happen

and then to watch the miracle manifest itself a thousand times
in a tiny village in Africa or in the heart of a special needs
teenage son. She taught me to borrow your sister’s panties

and to suffer the consequences. To croon Patsy Cline and to record
yourself in make-shift studio or at Six Flags. To commune with
The Creator on the beach when life barrels toward you,

the container heavy with loss and grief. She taught me to care and care
and then to care a little more. Because loss had opened her to love.


Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it. Her major themes focus on family, place, and faith. In 2021, she published her first collection of poems, Strange Fire.


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Artwork: “Man Praying” by Vincent Van Gogh, 1883 (Public Domain).

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