Joy Hewitt Mann

 Winter 2001

When We Talk of Love

My Mother as a Bird

The stroke left a smile
like she swallowed something bitter. She
doesn't speak much, rarely sings
those bawdy hymns that always grated
on my teenage ears
like a beak
on cuttlebone.

One arm struggles against
an invisible shell, egg
tooth lost in the crippled
bill; trembling hands scream,
more articulate than
the primed speech of parrots. 
I remember
when words flew
from her mouth
when smiles and whispers spoke
of men she'd had
like cocks who pecked around her,
legs bowed
to better show their manhood.

Her legs are as flaccid now as old breasts. We
struggle to the toilet seat --
no underpants, to
make things easier.
No diaper either. We
both are glad it has not come to that.

She jokes how things have gone
backwards; how
at twenty-three she wore no panties
hor comvemumce
she says, and I
struggle with the words --
the thought.

I wonder while I feed her if
she dreams of men, if
the pale eyes that stare through me
see them at the window, strutting
their stuff, spreading
their tails like peacocks.

She opens her mouth, wide
like a fledgling bird.
I spoon porridge, wipe
the dribbles
with a free hand.

In the Dark

If infinity lies
beyond the term of night
like a drop of ink
balanced on a knife edge,
sorrow serrates the blade
and only love's whetting stone
can help us.

                        Lying here
with your clothes
beside the bed, your scent
clinging precarious
like the sudden spark I felt
when tenderness struggled
from your eyes,
I am thinking

 tonight earth has torn from orbit
 we spin
 both of us

 arcing out
 into the dark.

One Day at Annan

  The air here is as moist as the young woman
  who walked by us yesterday, waves caressing sand
                         as she moved her legs together. At least
 I imagined her wet as she looked at you
  her water tipping toward your lips
  like the wine you drank with your lobster.

  And I marvelled you could heard the ocean
  sibilant in her thighs, above the steady tide
  of my estrogen ebbing away

Talking to the Wind

    after all the nights of your memory molded
    in the cold sheets, I am ready to listen
    to forget the conversation of our bodies
    the bluster of arms and legs
    and pull your face before me, listen
    to your thoughts until the sun fills the doorway.

   Days are made of minutes, minutes
   hours, hours days, and days are all the same
though nothing is the same now.
    Clouds are pushing, knocking themselves into
                            petrels, shells and fish, and
    the thin screams of sea birds cut me
    into awkward shapes. I
    was always molding myself to fit a space
    I couldn't see. Your eyes
    giving strange alarums as I talked
    of what I would do with my life.

    Now you are a face before my window
    the wind blowing in from the sea
    and I want to bend into you, who
    was always where I lived
    though I never knew it then.

                            I was a stranded starfish, beached
    driftwood sinking into weeds,
    a tern clinging to the windswept shore.

    Now I remember how well your hand
                            fit around mine, and our minds

    like sand
    flowing into sand.

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