“Eisenhower’s Highway, 1960,” “Pain,” and “Upon Finding the Birth Quilt My Great Grandma Made for Me in My Mothers Attic”

“Eisenhower’s Highway, 1960,” “Pain,” and “Upon Finding the Birth Quilt My Great Grandma Made for Me in My Mothers Attic”


Photo by Alex Ware on Unsplash

Eisenhower’s Highway, 1960

It changes names as it rushes east

– Toll Road, Turnpike, Thruway –

supernatural, this ribbon of concrete,

where our brand new Buick,

swept back with its fins,

can fly, leaving the flat lands behind.

Service plazas welcome us,

space station modern,

Howard Johnson a man

who keeps his restaurants always open,

everything inside for sale,

colors like Christmas toys,

and the smells of Heaven tempting

my hungry farm boy stomach,

with food I could never have

back home in Indiana.

When I look up from my plate,

clams brown and crisp as

mother’s fried potatoes,

I watch the girl make an entrance

in her gypsy dress,

long hair to her waist,

and two young men behind her

in tight black sweaters and jeans

with goatees and berets

slanted to the side.

“Beatniks,” whispers my father,

a tone in his voice I’ve never heard,

this veteran with a hero’s medal

putting his arm around his wife

as the three of them glide by,

and me sticking my face

out into their wake just to see

if Mystery leaves a scent to follow.


The wide-eyed infant

            cannot see past the light,

                        newly freed from amniotic night,

the rumble of his mother’s body

            he will not remember

                        nor her gasps and cries,

but the slap that gives him breath

            will echo down the corridor

                        or his life,

the mark on his belly

            from God’s shining finger,

                        the push that sends him

tumbling on his Way.

Upon Finding The Birth Quilt My Great Grandma Made for Me in My Mother’s Attic

my song climbing toward heaven

branches of a tree

I am carried

changing ages as I turn

the needle of a compass

the whirl of a gyroscope

the solstice sun

rising between pillars

putting words in my mouth

the trunk of my life

growing thick

giving birth

a thousand times over

me in the blanket

I was laid upon

still wet

covered in my mother’s wine

that quilt on the farmhouse bed

I slept under as I grew

and learned to fly

great granny’s fingers

sewing maps with time’s threads

so I would find my way

through the labyrinth

and remember my dreams

every morning

I can never forget

her house on its dirt road

feather bed and mocking birds

outside the window screens

as I woke

yellow raspberries

and fresh cream for breakfast

her iron pump

to quench my thirst

for as long as I will live

About the Author

Steve Brammell

Steve Brammell's short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Alabama Magazine, Birmingham Magazine, RavensPerch, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, White Wall Review, The Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Flying Island Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, Toho Journal and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Finishing Line Press recently published his book of short stories, Red Mountain Cut. He is a graduate of Wabash College and a member of the Indiana Writers Center, and has also enjoyed a parallel career in the restaurant and wine business for the past 25 years. He lives in Indianapolis.

Read more work by Steve Brammell.