Along the Shoulder

Jake Young 


Laundry, Amanda MacGregor

Along the Shoulder
Jake Young

 for Jeanne

My grandmother grew up here as a girl, just
north of Waco—which must have seemed a life-
time to her when
  she finally took her own life
thirty years later in a hotel room
    in Southern California
because she feared being alive more than God.

The road to Missouri, lined with black-eyed-susans; 
my father murmurs    these were my mother’s favorite flower. 

Summers in Wyoming,     he would gather
handfuls of poor-land daisies for his mother— 

she would smile, kiss his cheek,  
and place them in a Mason jar on the table, 
or on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. 

Even as a boy he knew she needed something
to alleviate the bruises his father left; 
her mother’s lacerating words; and
        her shame at being
told she was an eternal disappointment— 
the miracle of her
peeled away, pulled out     like a seam, 
unraveling one thread (or threat) at a time.

It’s summer again, 
and the ditches on the sides of the highway are full
of golden Jerusalems, sunlight breaking
their single black eye and yellow petals—
       a thousand
gilded Temple Mounts in the Old City (millions of prayers
slipped between ancient bricks).     The black-eyed-
susans turn their many names to the sun. A wild yellow. 

Amanda MacGregor is a sociologist and has taught a wide array of courses including Social Problems, Communities, and Visual Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and DePaul University in Chicago. She now lives in Albany, New York and speaks to a broader public on a variety of social issues. Her passions include roadside photography and traveling off the beaten path. Her website is

Jake Young received his MFA from North Carolina State University, and after a hiatus working at a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, currently attends the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Missouri–Columbia. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Miramar, Fjords Review, Poecology, pacificREVIEW, and The Commonline Journal. In 2014, Jake attended the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. He also serves as the poetry editor for the Chicago Quarterly Review.