Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Listener at the Edge

Listener at the Edge, by Mary Stebbins Taitt. Digitally altered photograph.


This is the new poem from the Geraldine Chapbook, Wet

Wet (How Geraldine became Jochabed)* (February 20, 1968)
Fifteen seconds before Aldy howls, Geraldine's breasts twitch,
tingle and dribble.  She gallops toward the nursery. 
"Ignore him," shouts Beatrice, from upstairs.  "He needs to learn
to go four hours without food."
Geraldine pauses, feels her breasts contract, feels
dampness spread across her dress front.  Aldy screeches and wails. 
Geraldine flinches, hugs herself.  Tight.  She waits, listens
for Beatrice, hears only Aldy.  Wipes tears
on the back of her hand.  Then creeps, one step at a time,
down the hall.  She pauses, steps into the nursery, inches
toward the bassinet.  Pauses, still
listening for Beatrice. 

Aldy's face is red and wrinkled, his mouth wide and toothless,
his fingers curled into flailing fists.  Geraldine lifts
the squalling infant to her breast, breathes
a sigh of relief as he latches on
and sucks.

"Geraldine!  No, don't!"  Somewhere,
Beatrice hollers.

Geraldine sits in the rocker by the window, rocks and rocks,
first fast, then slower and slower.  Sings.  "Hush little baby,
don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mocking bird." 
She smells Aldy's warm milk-smell,
wipes tiny beads of sweat from his brow, smooths
his fine, soft hair.  Feels the curve of his head in the cup
of her hand.  Light from the window shines through his skin,
making it glow, lighting a tracery of tiny veins.  Aldy's little hands
pat her breasts.  He's warm, close, sweet and hers.  Like Ricky. 
Just like Ricky

"Don't go to him so soon, you'll spoil him," Beatrice says,
standing at the nursery door now, scowling.  Geraldine
doesn't look up, but feels her sister's scowl thick in the air
like the heaviness clinging to her heart.  "If that mocking bird
don't sing, mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring," she sings,
softly, almost in a whisper.  "You don't have any money,"
Beatrice says.  "And you don't have any diamonds,
and you never will.  Remember, I'm Aldy's mother.
You're the wet nurse, and that's all.  You need
to do as you're told."

Mary Stebbins Taitt
*Jochabed, Moses' mother hid him in a reed boat; became his nurse (endnote in the ms)

-----this line and everything below the line is not part of the poem----
080506-1215-5b; 080505-1533-4f; 080504-1130-3b; 080503-2235-2c; 080502-2105, 1b

I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats