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

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YOU BELONG WITH US



Judith and despair were becoming one. She felt that, as she entered the restaurant and friends stood to greet her. In their eyes she saw sorrow; in the warm grasp of their hands, two holding her one, she felt their desire to reassure her, their need to convey: “We are with you. We are here for you.”

Greg held out a chair for her and she sat, acutely aware that the neat, universally proscribed table for four had been gerrymandered to create a table for five, an anomaly, an odd mole on a face with otherwise perfect features.

Ed leaned over and pointed to the appetizers on the menu that had been thrust into her hands. “We’ve ordered shrimp cocktails, but feel free to get anything you like.”

“We”
“Feel free”
“Get anything you like”
Judith’s eyes misted over and instead of burgundy block letters on the menu, she saw the new vocabulary that would define her. She would never be “We” again. She would be expected to “feel free,” to “get anything” she liked, without consultation, negotiation, without concern for the other’s allergies, his likes and dislikes.

She would have to learn what she liked, what she alone could tolerate. She forced her eyes to focus on the menu. She couldn’t bring herself to order the shrimp cocktail. Lars had developed a nasty rash after they shared shrimp at the Washington marina. That was fifty years ago and she’d never had shrimp since. “Can you do a Caesar salad for one,” she asked the waiter.

“No problem, Madam,” he replied.

“We’ve ordered a couple of bottles of Medoc,” said Ed. “We know you favor red.”

No, she wanted to say. She’d been drinking red with fish for what seemed like a lifetime, but it was Lars, her meat eater, who always ordered red for both of them.

Judith smiled at her companions. So kind, solicitous. They meant well. “You belong with us,” they seemed to say. But she didn’t, she knew. She belonged only to herself now, with herself.

“If you don’t mind,” she said softly, not wanting to offend, “I’d like a glass of Chablis. I’m having the halibut.”

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

What Our Feet Tell Us



She was given so many chances, but in the end Hortense failed macroeconomics.

In a way she was glad.

In high school, she had loved literature and science. She had played clarinet in band, her shoulders swaying, right foot tapping, feeling joy and release as the lilting notes filled the auditorium. In art class, collage had been her specialty. Juxtaposing found objects, pebbles, shells, with fragments of photos, ribbon, she would lose herself in the process of telling a story that she alone, perhaps, would understand, though often her teacher or a classmate would say: That reminds me so much of a summer I spent in Maine, or, Why does that make me think of the day my grandmother died?

Mathematics had never been her strong suit, but there was something about economics that intrigued her. Her father, when he was alive, often quoted as he read the newspaper, filling her ears with the ups and downs of the Dow, acronyms like GDP and IPO, how the yen was doing against the dollar. It was a world she glimpsed, but into which she never set foot.

It was a road she felt compelled to take.

So when it was time to declare her major, she abandoned the insouciance of freshman year and elected the challenge of economics.

Over the next two years the mysteries of the Dow were explained. She could toss off “Keynesian” and “Greenspan said” with aplomb. Now it was she quoting stock market vicissitudes, as she perused the Financial Times, marveling at the growing power of the euro.

Then she took macroeconomics. The early weeks went well. Geopolitics had always fascinated her. But as the semester rolled on, the arcane theory stayed just beyond her reach. As the professor flashed slide upon slide onto the blank white screen that nearly filled the wall at the head of the lecture hall, her toes would tap with impatience. She wanted to be somewhere else.

Ultimately she had to accept the reality: macroeconomics forever would be a world she could glimpse, but into which she could never set foot.

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

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