How Strange to Find You Here



Fancy meeting you here, where

There are no jonquils, no pools of cool gray water, no orange fish, blue ducks, no yapping geese soiling the grass; in fact, there is no grass.

No Bradford pears that bloom in March, nor crimson explosion in October.

There are no boys on scooters plowing the air with one foot, no girls in sequins, toying with fat pink bows in their yellow hair.

No babies smiling at you when you show your big teeth, whimpering when your old face is in repose.

There are no young men in baseball caps pointing the wrong way or young women wearing the wrong thing or not enough, bellies peeking over faded torn jeans, thighs seeping out of skirts meant for someone else.

There are no mothers and fathers in wedded bliss holding hands and stealing kisses.

Nor mothers and fathers locked in rage, scarring their walls with thrown pots, their children with scalding words and the flat wham of a belt.

There are no beloved children here who anticipate rich lives.

No wars or uprisings on the fringes of your neighborhood and on your television screen; no television, in fact, nor phones, cellular or otherwise, no tweets, no google, no wikipedia.

No trace of Sisyphus, pushing his rag-filled shopping cart up the scenic hills of San Francisco, or was it Philadelphia? Washington?

No music, music that soothes, Brahms perhaps or Rachmaninoff; no music that makes the toes wiggle, the bottom shake.

No canvas splashed with an inscrutable pattern that stirs the imagination: I think it is a wedding cake, no, a cat, you might say were you to walk into a room and see it hanging on a well-lit mauve wall.

No piece of theater to make you peer inside yourself and draw conclusions about who you were, what you were about to become before you came to this place.

Where I never expected to meet you.
How strange to find you here.

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The Sorceress



I would love you if you let me

This is nonsense
If I wanted you I could have you
I would seduce you
Offer soft curves and fragrances
Look to you for guidance through my lashes
A woman has only to look to a man for guidance
To provoke passion
This is the Rule of Abrasion wherein
Two alien objects scrape and blend
Into a new entity
The formula
One plus one equals one
Is an expansion to which I have always subscribed
When I was young
I relished the diminishment
I hummed diligently

If I wanted you to love me
I would polish my lips
Magnets to woo you
I don’t believe in miracles
But certain elements of voodoo work

Last night I dreamed about Antigone
Ah the sweetness of dreams
Ah the residue of crystallized ideals
I am susceptible to sacrifice
It isn’t easy to overcome
An affinity for lost causes

Various hairdressers led me to believe
In the power of my teeth
My proper bones
The adorable flash of my dimples
Now I am old, lagging, sagging
I turn to dormant soil
Long ignored qualities astonish me
Erupt like uninhibited laughter

I could bury myself in my flesh
Cry
Realize a tendency to surrender
But the turned earth needs me
Seeds sprout and shatter clay
It is my pleasure to anoint them
It is my duty to weed through the new clustered seedlings
To pluck and abandon at random
To eat my young so to speak
It is my obligation to grieve
To grieve even as I pluck and destroy

The path is strewn with dead seedlings
Who can assess my memories
Were my children young and needful
The past is filled with debts and deeds
My needs have dried and scattered

But if I wanted you
I could have you
I would polish my skin to a sheen
Toy with you and coquette
That never changes
Victims come and go
The sorceress refuses to wither

Legacy



On the short page of my known history
I am the bottom line
Two ordinary women precede me
One lived a rich life . . .
a paragraph for her in this synopsis!
The other hardly learned to live at all
We’ll give her honorable mention

The rich one dealt in gratitude

 “Thank God for chicken soup and barley”
“Thank God for penicillin,” when it came
“Thank God for God”

 The other one lamented

 “Why me?”

Down, down came the words
from one
to the other
to where I waited

I have two sons
They are descended from a race of giants
They are larger than me

Larger than anything I have to say
When they speak
I listen
and my words
drop

 

“Legacy” appeared in Three Sisters 1977

Hazards of Safety



she was afraid her husband would die first
leave her to learn how
to live with the woman in her mirror
not the girl in his eyes
thirteen in bobby sox and crinolines the first time he saw her
later, holding her hand as she swooned over Elvis
telling himself he would always be her real heartthrob, muse
she would never have to worry about anything
would want for nothing while he was alive
which is what happened

What I learned from my mother



sometimes I think I learned nothing from my mother
but when I take one wave at a time in a frenetic sea
dance with my refrigerator door
calm a friend
fund a lost cause
cheer on my sons
I remember
how together we invented
heroes we might one day meet
astonishing places we would see
ways we would hurtle through fear
as if our lives depended on it

Heirloom Tomatoes



rich with memory
tale of duress struggle fear ease
pleasure dripping
sour acidic sweet
oval round miniscule epic
fragrance of loam worms manure
lime lemon plum apricot
the Ninth
My Girl
Nessun Dorma
better than bananas
too good for lettuce
begging for a rustic plate
mozzarella di bufala
McEvoy olive oil
Scharffen Berger for dessert

O Those Cheeks



round plump plums in summer as I push your stroller round and round

scarlet mounds as you run round and round
grownups sipping aperitifs taking no notice of you until you fall
gasping for air at their feet giggling

fresh pink peaches in winter—the novelty of it—delectable sweet and round and mine to nibble

tucked under my arm at bedtime as I read Horton Hears a Who dark lashes layered
upon those round morsels of cheeks

all memory now

the snowy angles of your face as you read The Underwear Dare aloud
evoke your father, your uncle, your grandpa
all the men in my life who preceded you
you laugh and I hear them too

and we go round and round and round

On the Death of Someone You Love



When you meet this moment in your memory
you will be struck
by the precision of its angles
its symmetry

Nothing maintains grief
like something you have failed to say
always
after

Words pour
through hollows carved everywhere
by the wrong words

The right words erode walls
walls recede
recede

“On the Death of Someone You Love” appeared in Gargoyle 1976

Seize Memory



You will remember
You will be struck with remembering tonight
When I first spoke of my death

When you need this moment
Will return to you discrete
Unaffiliated with my legend
And in your moment of remembering
We will be mourners together

We have conceived an unstoppable sharing
You will be able to pull this out of your hat
Out of your assets
Out of the spin of pursuits behind you

(I was the May Queen adorned with streamers
And a crown of flowers white like my dotted Swiss gown
The revelers startled me with their indifference
I expected to be more
Than an epicenter for their choreography)

Now you call me to your bed
To brush lightening from your eyes and banish thunder
Inconsolable    Fall asleep    Fall fast
And the day will come like a moth unwinding

Seize Memory” appeared in Rye Bread: Women Poets Rising 1977

Mutations



I have been worshiping with all of my ornaments intact
Your lute leans in the darkness against a wall of years
And we dance
We have always danced well together

The lie throws my body into aching
My knees bend from the strain of bearing
This particular dress
This white habit
This choking sari with butterfly sleeves
No matter how many turns I maneuver
How often I conjure new ways of wrapping
It never conceals my flesh
But dances out from me like separate skin
I molt in a reversal of seasons
Larva in your stunned hands
My love, did you order this garment from a gifted seamstress?
Did I?

We are out of step
My knees already crusty with kneeling grow limp
As a pair of crabs
Washed up, searching
Searching
For the sea

 “Mutations” appeared in Gargoyle 1978.

 

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