Monday, April 20, 2009

A Trick of Light

A Trick of Light

When her compass of shadows points only to darkness,
a rumble slashes behind her, a torn crack of sound.
Imagine the girl, hair brushing her waist, gown hitched up
and clinging damply to her skin as she wades through
the tall wildflowers that brush her bare legs with dew.
She turns in the meadow, resplendent with reds from the low sun,
curious and afraid. She holds the purple asters and goldenrods
close to her chest, flowers that evermore will signify the end
of summer, half the end, in a way, of everything,
but she doesn't know that yet. Not quite yet. She sees the horses
first, black, green-eyed, drooling spittle, dancing in their harnesses.
They paw at the air and rock; sparks fly from their hooves.
She sees the driver next, dark, handsome, old. Then young,
a sort of trick of the light. He is already in front of her
before she thinks to bolt. He seizes her, scoops her with an arm
around her waist, just as she begins to scream. Her head falls back,
flung on her thin neck by the upward rush as the chariot spins
and turns downward again. Dangling like this, she sees
one last glimpse of the darkening meadow, the flowers
a sea of colors, the stars whirl, the moon sets precipitously
at the edge of the chasm. The Underland seethes with the dead.
Their eyes and skin glow greenish, like foxfire or fireflies,
giving the vast caverns an eerie light. Creepy. In the throne room,
Hades makes diamonds for her by crushing coal in his bare hands,
a nifty trick, but Persephone will not stop crying. When he touches her,
the flowers blacken in her hands. She calls and calls for her mother.
He offers rubies, emeralds, pork chops, polenta, chocolate. Of course,
the pomegranate stops the tears. Her mother had fed them to her
as a child, one seed at a time, but when Hades feeds her his seed,
all trace of sweetness disappears from her tongue.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
090420-1141-2a; 090419-2016 1st completed 1st draft



Fawn lilies, pale in the shadows of trees, open their throats

and call the bees. Bees, drunk with sleep and winter,

stagger from the hive. The hive hums with its own morning.

Spring caresses the forest lightly. If you hurry, you will see nothing

but the dark still-sleeping trunks of trees. But stop. Place your ear

to the trunk and listen. Sap thrums in its veins, singing

to the buds who hum softly as they gather their new leaves

to unfurl. And in a spot of branch-filtered sun, the first

mourning cloak butterfly fans slow wings among the fallen leaves.

You might mistake it for one of them if you didn't pause and look.

But I cannot look. Confined indoors, I miss the birthday

of the forest: the doe, licking her newborn, pressing

with her nose to balance it as it wobbles toward

its first breakfast. Picture me longing, aching; see me imagining

instead of watching, as, stepping among the white lilies

that bear its name, in a moment never to be repeated,

the newborn fawn takes its fleeting first steps.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

for Keith

090419-1153-1c; 090418-1916-1st completed draft

The fawn in the composit is by Berrybird. The word layout is by Wordle (from my poem). I took the trees and the fawn lily and made the composit. For Creative Every Day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Making it on my Own (Word Trails)

Making it on my Own (Word Trails)

Writing as I walk, I follow word trails through a forest of thought,
each word linked mutably to a host of images and memories.
An Icabod Crane tree hangs over the path: twisted. The word twisted
links to broken, broken to shattered, shattered to glass
and to my heart, that old saw, that cliché that still feels so rich and real
to me, so true, in spite of centuries of overuse. It's difficult
to be a poet when you love clichés. My glass heart shatters from anger,
from a hand or fist or knife, smashed against a face, face links to fly,
fly escape bird wing fast fancy fallow Farrow Darcy.
I liked that name, Darcy. But I could not name
a daughter Darcy because of Darcy Farrow, though any name
must link to some tragedy or other. A good name ruined.
Alicia was another. I'd chosen it as a possibility until Robert Garrow
raped and killed Alicia Houk and abandoned her body along the trail,
the trail I walked to school each day. A beautiful girl left all winter
under the snow, no a trail of words, but a trail of horror. Strange
what we remember and what we forget. A trail of memories.
Reading old letters, I discover that I wrote my parents daily, twice
daily, often, after I left home. Such an outpouring of confusion,
a plethora of words, forbidden words, like fire hunger beg drugs,
like robbed, beaten, kicked, evicted, like plethora, a word my teacher
says not to use in poetry. Much of what I wrote my parents
I forgot, but occasionally, a favorite story surfaces, suddenly revisited,
shiny in the moment of it's recording, fresh with excitement
and pain or matter-of-factly written as commonplace,
two of us cramming into the turnstile together because we only
had one subway token between us. The half-rotted fruit
we pulled from the dumpster behind the grocers, devoured, grateful
for any sustenance. Sitting on the fire escape to get even the slightest
hint of breeze. "Don't send money," I wrote repeatedly
to my parents, "if I can't make it on my own, I'll come home."
Unlike Darcy Farrow, unlike Alicia Houk, I made it home eventually.
Boyfriend lover husband anger fist hit bleed abuse. Finally, escape.
Twisted, broken, shattered, home. I made it home,
if that breathing but mangled girl ringing my parents' doorbell
was still me.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
090417-2124-1c; 090417-1641-1st (complete) draft

word image from Wordle.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

White Duck in a Green Pool

For National Poetry Month and for Creative Every Day

White Duck in a Green Pool

The Clinton River makes an acute turn, chews
up the banks and topples trees whose roots hang fibrous
and ungrounded into the green water. Mallards, quacking
and grunting, slide along the current like pucks
in an air hockey game, smooth on the wrinkled green surface,
interrupting the reflection of willows and phragmites
with their shiny blue and green heads. When the river cuts
back far enough, it will rejoin itself, abandoning
this U-shaped oxbow to stagnate like an old appendix.
Already, the trail caves into the river and disappears,
almost impassable between the plunge to water
and the thicket of brambles. Already,
old oxbows ring islands of trashy willows and weeds
where Canada geese nest, the males hissing,
trailing intruders, attacking with wing blows,
with the heavy thump of breastbone against neck and shoulder.
No one in this dismal place is jubilant, but the white ducks,
resting on the sandbar opposite the bend of the river preen
their spotless feathers with bright orange smiles.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
090416-1025-2a, 090413-1730-1b

I've been posting most of my poetry that I have time to post, including the drafts, to The Smell of Sun because I've been too busy to do what I usually do, which is to post the early drafts here and the later ones there.