Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
Florida poet Ellis Elliott has three beautiful poems about family and the intimacies and indignities of aging.
Please read and share with someone who needs a little beauty in their life today.
The Derailleur Press Team
She bends silvery-green sweetgrass
leaves into woven baskets in a ritual
as a low-country Sunday school hymn.
Both held and pulled with her right hand,
the coils must be taut with tension and strong
enough to hold water. She sketched rooms
to scale in her red spiral notebook, sewed
the teal silk curtains, and died in the
I moved into. In the kitchen were her copper
cooking pots, her cracked oyster plates,
her mint-green matchbox from Paris,
her baskets on cabinet tops, and her three
lost boys. I search for something sturdy to
contain their grief. And when it can’t be found,
I become my own flawed variation. My broad
leaves braid and curl around all of us.
It’s been buried almost a year now under
the Kleenex box and books on the table beside
my desk. It took a year for me to look inside
the red steno pad, the one missing its back cover
and always beside her at the nursing home.
It was filled with words written by others,
like her caregiver, nurse assistant, or me:
Her weight, month by month.
Book recommendations for the Kindle: Becoming, Hipbillies,
Love of a Good Woman.
Six-line, large, block-print letter reminders:
PT: Fri., 10:00 a.m.
Razorback basketball game: 6:00 p.m., ESPN.
Podcast recommendations: Hidden Brain, On Being.
It was filled with words she wrote, her once-smooth curl
of cursive now sharp angles of stops and starts, words
she called me to remember.
What’s the material my blanket is made of?
One page, one word: flannel
What is that nice man nurse’s name?
One page, one word: Trevor
Each page written in black Sharpie,
one bleeding into the next. A faint
imprint of the words that came
on the page before, then dots
like Morse code, then page
after page, empty.
and the smoke lifted into sunlight, slanting in hazy
prisms from the carved corners of her Waterford
crystal ashtray. To my young self, it was an oracle’s
cauldron conjuring messages in fire and clouds.
Once, I sat beside her upturned palm and read her
life lines, her skin as thin as rolling papers. Toward
the end, she sat alone in her ash-wounded recliner
at night. She kept her hand-carved cane close and,
by the glow of the yellowed linen lampshade,
she blew smoke rings. She knew by then it was too late.
She knew the spell had already been cast.
Ellis Elliott has been published in Belle Ombre, The Broken Plate, Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal, Copperfield Review Quarterly, Courtship of Winds, Literary Mama, The MacGuffin, Meadow, OPEN: Journal of Arts and Letters, Riggwelter, Neologism Poetry Journal, Perceptions Magazine, Plainsongs, Signal Mountain Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Sierra Nevada Review, Streetlight Magazine, and Wrath-Bearing Tree. She participated in the Palm Beach Poetry Festival 2015 Workshop with poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Ellis received a bachelor’s degree in English from Rhodes College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University. She has taught ballet for over 30 years, and currently teach ballet, yoga, and lead online and in-person writing groups. She and her husband has a blended family of six grown sons and she enjoy mixed-media art, swimming, and miniatures.