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Poetry Saturday: One Plus One

Poetry Saturday: One Plus One

Tammy February 26, 2011 0 comments

Memory Goddess: Momma by Tammy Vitale, Commissions $400 (28 x 9)

August 15, 1957

      by Tammy Vitale

      One, two, three, four
     Five, Six, Seven
     All good girls can
     go to heaven.  (skipping rhyme)

In Arlington, Virginia
she stands on a yellow chair
to reach the lemon colored countertop
that surrounds the sink
where her mother washes dishes
while dreaming out the window
when it isn’t too fogged by steam

It is evening and hot as only August can be
with a wetness that sticks to everything
shimmering

In front of her newspaper is spread
for unforeseen spills
and rows of colored crayons
bright broken ones
to swirl into the melted wax
pouring into a cutoff milk carton
for homemade candles

One red crayon bands the hat over a face
staring out from the newsprint
a young woman with deer eyes and
round “O” of a mouth.  The girl is not yet old enough
to read but shows her mother how
the number at the top of the page matches
the number where the small hand rests
on the clock.  her mother says, “seven.”
The girl says, “All good girls can go to heaven.”

When the dog barks unexpectedly at the clock’s chime
the girl startles
spills half-made candle onto the counter
down cabinet fronts
finds the wax encasing her like a butterfly’s cocoon
her mouth a round “O”
the cocoon cracking just that fast
her breath rushing out in a soft rustling
a gasp exactly loud enough to be heard
as evening drops away and
night’s dark secrets gather outside,
women’s faces all, noses pressed against the window
mouths formed into identical “Os”
breathing out, hard and

the sound swims inside
glitters round the ceiling like fireflies
or lanterns seen from a distance
at the end of brown halls
at the top of green stairwells
from behind blue doors
women’s voices asking:
“Where is it ever safe?”
their exhalations joining the girl’s,
her mother’s, a collective crescendo
of vibration, a hurricane
of anticipation

Back at the counter
cleaned once more to gleaming
replenished paper spread, new wax melted
and another round of bright crayons,
this time less broken, arrayed,
it is still Arlington, Virginia
but the number seven has been left behind.

Power

    by Adrienne Rich

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Carol Muske writes:

Earlier, in an interview done in 1974, [Rich] commented on the ‘back and forth” flow of woman-energy…

Once you stop splitting inner and outer, you have to stop splitting all those other dichotomies, which I think proceed from that:  yourself-other, head-body, psyche-politics, them-us.  The good society would be one in which these divisons would be broken down, and there (would be) much more flow back and forth…At moments I have this little glimmer of it.  When I’m in a group of women, where I have a sense of real energy flowing and of power in the best sense, not power of domination, but just access to sources – I have some sense of what it could be like.

In Category : Poetry Saturday

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