Two Poems by Anna Laura Reeve

La Milpa, East Tennessee

                 Every year the sweet corn craved

by farm clients shot up in June fields, suffered 

heat—sometimes drought—and the hunger 

of caterpillars, raccoons, and skunks. Small

return. Cheap sugar. In Tennessee we slip 

and call it culture, since our grandfathers 

were the first to try these purebred supersweets

and we were kids and ate it like candy. Silver 

Queen. Sugar Pearl. American Dream. Now, 

my friends’ fields grow cousins and ancestors, 

untraceable heirlooms, dehybridized sweet

corn and el maíz criollo sent by Alfonso, one

of the last two farmers from El Sauzal to plant their 

milpas with the corn of their grandfathers. Lalo 

walks the fields in August, scanning stalks for ears, 

ears for wrapper coverage, and cracking off 

a few to dent with a thumb, to taste. Bright

strips of kernels grin like I imagine his father 

must have done, like his tousle-headed son.

Without supports, the corn my grandfather grew 

weakens, tasseling at chest-height. Irrigation-

plumped kernels will shrivel to almost nothing 

in next year’s drought, or storms. If I’m future

tripping, it’s because of you, East Tennessee, 

who love your stringquilted heritage so much 

you forgot who made it with desperate fingers, 

stitching a bitter inheritance, craving any sweet 

distraction. Meanwhile the corn of mesoamerica 

rises dark green and ancient, towering above us 

as cartels, corruption, and climate push it north, 

north to freedom in this acre of East Tennessee 

where it arrives in a rough palm, as welcome to us

as gospel.



A quality of stillness, active as the pointing 

hound, and a resignation steely and focused, 

never turning aimless, this is one inheritance.

Survival was my mother’s first daughter and 

your mother’s, raised among us like another 

child of the family. We knew her, we loved her, 

we spoiled her. When I wake in the morning, 

or pause at any of the day’s thresholds, I

remember her. How she steadied my hands 

as a child and gave me bread and honey, and

again when my daughter was a baby, so I 

could give her bread and honey. My sister.

The stillness of the rabbit in the lawn as I run 

by unable to catch my breath, its face set like 

an unliving thing toward what approaches, 

ponderously, shaking the earth, and we won’t 

be caught sleeping or naked or fearful or porous. 

We imagine all futures of wreck or famine, 

we set a mask of aloneness toward doom. Oh 

mother  oh me  oh brown oak leaves clinging

on through winter, hunched over leaf scars 

till new leaves emerge in the spring.

Anna Laura Reeve is a poet living and gardening near the Tennessee Overhill region, traditional land of the Eastern Cherokee. Previous work of hers has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, ROOM Magazine,, and others. She is the winner of the 2022 Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry, a finalist for the Ron Rash Award and the Heartwood Poetry Prize, and a two-time Pushcart nominee. Her debut poetry collection, Reaching the Shore of the Sea of Fertility, is forthcoming from Belle Point Press (April 2023). Find her on Instagram @annalaurareeve and on Twitter @AnnaLauraReeve.