On a Branch Jabbering: the women who have made me,

by Anne Marie Mackler
July 2000

On My Vanity

I. Barbie
smiles evenly,
as sweet as the 1950s
offering her
Playboy shape
to little girls
to dress up to
die for.

Barbie is a virgin, closed up
clitorectomy. Moral.
Pure as a scalpel. Mattel
made her perfect.
Her waistline is as small
as an eggshell.
Never softened
not loosened, not loved
with the pounding
of conception,
the pushing of birth,
she is a prostheses
of womanhood.
Walking with high heel feet
will never jostle
the symmetry
of her synthetic
The skin doesn't hang
underneath her upper arm
doesn't jiggle when she wears
a sleeveless dress
and blows a kiss.
The sprig of her body
is as stiff as a dead one;
and her knees creak
when you bend them.

Barbie perches
on my vanity
between the perfume oils,
the dry skin creams
and the family photo
of Katy's wedding,
where we five sisters wore
blue-flowered bows,
as tight as girdles,
slippery white pumps, pearls
and smiles as shiny as vinyl.

II. The Blessed Mother

Covers her closed legs
with sun rays, robes
with sleeves to the floor.
A halo and stars
Mary the model
for why a girl
should stay idle.

We build altars for her,
crown her, with white ribbons
and roses
we dance around her
clean our souls.
She offers blessings
from the fruit of her tidy womb,
sweet apples of redemption.

The crescent moon
beneath her satin feet
is as faithful as gravity
carrying her safely
to witness baptisms,
abortions, nativities,
and grant forgiveness.

Her reliable smile.
When restlessness
unblankets me,
chases me into the weight,
of nighttime's unfamiliar,
Our Lady's glow
from the votive
on my vanity,
guides my footsteps,
as softly as a hymn,
away from my bad dreams
about children I never had
and men that I did.


III. Mom

didn't have sex
it appeared
that her frequent bulge
was the innocent result
of a closed bedroom door.
A candlelight dinner.

We couldn't know.
She has arms of soft flesh,
butterleaf lettuce.

She doesn't shave, wax
or use make up, a housewife,
a hostess who knows the freedom
of a sleeveless dress
and the luxury of clean carpet,
dust-free chandeliers,
a good party
garmented with handsome children,
mellow bourbon,
fine cheese, and pimento olives.

Her strength, her straight
back, her beautiful red hair,
her perfectly crooked
smile, nine babies later,
she wears the posture
of womanhood.

The sewing box mom sent
rests on my vanity
hiding all the buttons
I will never sew.

The discount spools of thread
keep the secrets
of a straight stitch
and a strong hem.

Mom unravelled that world
for me once,
and I wish I'd listened.

My daughters watch
my pierced fingertips,
my uneven stitches.




The cicada's buzz stopped
when tires screeched and twisted
into her quiet summer night.

She found you, all black, bent
into the van's hot metal
like a used sparkler.

She wrapped her silky
see-through wings
around your seven-year old arms,
and your childhood
became permanent.

You can't chase that big summer bug
anymore, catch her, put a thread
around her neck and fly her
like a plane circling and
circling your curious world.

She still visits you
among the generous plastic flowers
rests upon the tons of earth
between your cocoon
and the echo
of her interrupted song


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