And who am I dreaming to become—
heaviest in sleep—lost in my own mind,
waking to a closet closing after me.
Where have I been,
and who were those others?
Start of the long day begins heavy
with a glance at the window
to see what sort of day I will enter.
What will I wear?
What will I do?
Which plan is more important than another?
After Three Men Walking, 1948, by Giacometti
Walking out from the center of the mirror, I face
three directions and am at once at the mercy of
three compulsions. Thus am I split into the three
measurements of existence : I am past, present,
and future. But, still, I am of the mirror—that
mothering eye that will not diminish or release,
but only gives me a glimpse of illusion—that
bordering reach—that drift off the fathomless
edge around me. If only I can pull away at the
exact moment, I will escape the unguarded blink
that must occur. Even now, I can feel my three
selves slip the magnetic hold of my own fear
and reluctance—that pull at the weakening
center—if only I am that brave—if only I can
break my own trance, and that of the mirror . . . .
(first pub. in Tiger's Eye, 2001)
CHANT FOR ROPE JUMPERS
catch in a pony tail
tangle the curl
twist in the fingers
rope trip a girl
rope be a measure
rope be the lie
jump to a thousand
and we’ll never die
slap on the sidewalk
snag in the grass
here comes a cripple
don’t let him pass
we never stumble
we never cheat
death fears the rhythm
of our feet
jump into moonlight
night is a hole
rope is a circle
that hands unroll
jump till we drop
here come the mothers
to make us stop.
(first pub. in Yankee, May, 1964; also
Chapbook: The Confetti Within, 1964)
My mother is a real woman in a real world. She is beau-
tiful. Her name is Annie. She has auburn hair. Her eyes
are browner than mine. She likes shredded wheat for
breakfast and tomato-beer just after. She cheats at rummy.
Tommy cheats, too, and they laugh together about how
they cheat at such an easy game as rummy.
They go to the store in a taxi and take a taxi home. They
lock their door. They talk down the intercom when some-
body rings their bell, saying, Who is it? Who is it? until
They share one ashtray that they empty often, the old blue
deck of cards stacked loosely between them on the table
where they sit across from each other most of the time.
What they talk about I do not know, but they are always
talking—or she is—and he is always saying how she is
Enclosed in a world small enough for the two of them,
they have each other, and this they love. They sleep safely
together in one bed. When he wakes up and coughs—and
coughs—she goes on sleeping.
MY MOTHER AS A FAMOUS MODEL
(from Erte’s Fashion Designs, illustrations
from “Harper’s *Bazar” 1918-1932) *(their spelling)
In dimensionless black and white
the women come onto the stage
in their designer dresses;
how fashionable they are—
who know how to move
in languorous disdain
under spotlights of admiration.
One of them is my mother—
she only looks like my mother,
The women inter-weave
and refuse to smile.
They wear hats with feathers,
and long graceful beads,
and their hands
are useless but beautiful.
looks past me
to some far-off mirror.
The mirror smiles,
but she keeps
a composed expression.
Her eyes cloud
with a look I have seen before.
I remember her like this
from a distance too far to cross.
I want to speak to her,
but she is looking beyond me,
through the mirror
which closes up behind me.
I feel transparent.
I cannot hold her image any longer.
(first pub. in The Listening Eye, 1998;
also Medusa’s Kitchen, 5/12)
CHILD IN RED DRESS
After Child in Red by Soutine
What she knows
is the defiance of color:
the long red dress,
the clomping of red high heels,
the dangling purse of her mother—
and her—in the power of the mirror.
MOTHER ; A CHILD’S DRAWING
She takes up the whole stage.
Her ridiculous heart
huge upon her breast.
Her eyes as large as plates
in her heart-shaped face…
She stands at the center
prepared to dance
or just be beautiful…
She stands in flowers
prepared to sing
or just be beautiful…
All things good surround her:
The balloon on the end of a stem…
The bright window with its path of light…
All good things surround her:
The dancing dog…
The round spiked sun…
The mystic stairway to the mountain…
She is attended by all symbolic things
loved by the artist-child…
Oh, her child has drawn her happy, alright.
(first pub. in Blind Man’s Rainbow, 9/97)
“ . . . there never was a word for her / Except the
one she sang and, singing, made.” –Wallace Stevens
Her world was made of joy beyond the
nuisance-price of trouble; she kept her hope,
admonished all my pessimistic gloom—
would never be defeated—not by sorrow—
would not at all surrender to those forces
that would vex her spirit—laying claim;
she’d swear a bit, then laugh them all away with
her defining, all-redeeming word—Tomorrow!
MOTHER AND I
putting our hands together
on the rail,
comparing them . . .
(first pub. in Brevities, 1/18)
Thanks to Joyce Odam today for her thoughts and smooth poetry and art, as she talks about her mother, our Seed of the Week, letting all the complexities of the mother-child relationship show where they may!
Our new Seed of the Week is Diamonds in the Grass. Stretch out your mind—baseball? dew? jewelry? a rattler? a horse named Diamonds—or maybe a goat? Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
For upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.