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Kim Wells, Editor

May 2008

Demeter, Again


Motherhood

All the good stories are about the bad
ones
Medea, chopping up children
for lunch
(add a salad and a glass of
chilled skim
milk, and you have a balanced meal).

Wicked
step moms
leaving you in the darkest part of the woods
while they go for
a nail appointment. Pedicures and Wolves
play important parts in this version.

There are never any fairy tales
about cleaning snot off of your sleeve
or changing diapers three times in one morning.
Or about those deep hugs
and the smell of the crook in the back hollow of
their little necks. Sweet
spot.

The fairy tales would tell you
that
is the most vulnerable spot--
a good place to whack with your axe and rid yourself of
the new husband's old baggage
to send to the good mother buried
behind the old well. Her embrace is eternal.

But who would read those good mom stories? Who would
pull up an old afghan cup of cocoa fireplace filled with snapping
twigs?

If you want to go down in history, you must first
beat your children soundly. Lick blood from your fingers.
Smile with pointy teeth
on the way to meet your lovers.


Demeter's Oracle

You wonder aloud what I do when you are gone.
As though I don’t know how to live without you.
Six months back to myself.

Some days I burn. There is no end to my heat
as I walk and walk and walk.
My hands are never empty
but everything seems so cold.

Daughters always think of their mothers as virgins
born, immaculate, to wipe noses and comb hair.
Never anything but grief if alone.

I remember:
White arms. Your white arms ringed in soft hair.
You picked red flowers with black seeds.
We wove them
into crowns.

My daughter, who is my self.
How your hair curled, sweaty, on your forehead
as you slept. Your lips parted,
your legs tucked under.
My chest filled with the need to keep your innocence
for you.

You went to an oracle once to find, as young women will,
your future. I could have told you,
your future will always find you first.

(For me.)
I, too, remember long nights of balmy air
salt on our skin, kissing, kissing.
Young men with eyes wide, knowing their own desire.

Pomegranate seeds can be
sweet or
bitter, depending on
their ripeness. They burst on the tongue and then
you know which
you have.
They stain your fingertips with their juice.

 


Fairy Tale

once upon a time I knew the way there
into the land of words like bees
and impossibly virginal pink
flowers.

Bees in November! Imagine
that.

It is warm. The water tips
my jeans.
moist. There are teal
cobalt chocolate moments
and music like fairies. and acorns
crunch beneath our feet.

Poetry is selfish
and rude.

And yet,
I cannot imagine
wanting
any
thing
more.



Muse

I am forced awake
by poetry.

"Go away. I'm sleeping late.
It's Saturday."
I whine. But poetry
pokes me with long cold fingers.

She whispers
"remember that cute
cowboy in the beat-
up
blue pickup truck
wearing a tan
straw hat (of all things)?
and your 2o minute crush ?
The one you never even
got a good look at?
Visions of cool white cotton sheets
in the morning, wrinkled by bodies,
sun on an unfamiliar sleeping face,
(like that Brittney commercial, only not so cheesy)
Putting the same song on "repeat"?
So you could hear Lucinda singing country torch
songs on the radio
over and over?
You applying redred lipstick?
And standing in the wind with a blue cotton
sundress? ("Yeah, to pump gas," I whisper,
but poetry just laughs at me).
And then the cowboy was gone?"

I roll over. Tuck my hands under my
wrinkled pillow. "No. Go away."

She laughs. "Get up. Write
about that."

I hate poetry.

Delcambre, 1980

There was this small town:
shrimp boats, rotting at the docks. Churches, empty during the week.
Worn down, needing paint (but full every day)
trucker bars. Speeding truckers with pockets full of black mollies.
Communion of sinners, my body, given for you.

and not much else.

I was small then, too. It was a long time ago.

One day, riding the school bus, we passed a cemetery where
there had been a wreck. The car,
drably green, American, bulky gas guzzler,
on its last legs, brakes gone
plowed remorseless
into several graves. Was still there.
Gray-white, above-ground
mausoleums surrendered to a greater force than inertia. Stone
and old desecrated clothing lay strewn across the winter dead
unkempt grass.

No people. Driver long gone.
But the car, left empty, yawning:
no trump sounded to mark its soul’s holy passage. Simply
abandoned.

The bus smelled of adolescence and paste drying on paper. Homework
stained our fingers with black ink.
We children craned our necks. Let down square
windows with a clunk.
Hoping, repulsed.
Looked for something ghastly.
We laughed, screamed, delighted.
Spied a glint of
what turned out to be
just a hubcap.

Giddy,
we sought out evidence of that long sleep, safe
within the yellow-green fullness of our own youth.

We looked for secrets behind closed doors,
the fullness of the hidden,
the tabooed, unthinkable: like heavy breathing in the
middle of the night. Our parents, in their own lives, and us desperately awake.
Wishing for anywhere but here.

Disappointed, we
found nothing.

The next day, the car was gone. Rescued. Yellow police tape
surrounded the scene.
We shrieked at a bee caught on the bus,
frantic in her attempts to escape back into the pollen laden air.

We went back to verbs and multiplication tables.
Four times four is sixteen.


Pool Weather

Sliding quickly
no splash
into cold water

the edge very close
within
reach

water closes over your head
as you keep your eyes open
and reach up

for a moment, you are
gone.

And then there is a splash
of your father as he bellyflops
to your rescue.

It is not heroism
It is not news
It is only a moment
In a day
In a life.

But I will always remember
how tightly you held on,
after.

The edge may be close,
but sometimes, we miss it anyway.


Icarus
for S.

There are these stories
that they tell:
the sting and hum of the wild blood,

rage, oh rage—

My heart in freefall
the moment it pauses its tramp, its drums, as you—
fall. Fear of the next second, what will be undone and done.
What cannot be undone.

That fear. Those tears.
These stories I try to unlearn.

You laugh, and sing
“Ring around the rosy”
and joy makes last word a shout.

I pray for large pockets,
and no cut flowers.
And throw small blue stones
at large birds who row their feathers home.
(I think they are birds) They sing.

The blue will keep them away.

Purple flowers bloom on your fair dollskin. You fall, again.

Listen: I am afraid of wax. How it gives.
You, jumping, and me,
trying, against those stories,
the awful weight of them,
to catch you this time.



Kim's bio can be read here.
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