One of mine today!
Bags of potpourri that the Littleton, Colorado, fire department made from flowers placed at Columbine High School: 3000
It was hard to drop her at school
that spring. She made me leave her
two blocks away
Low on her hip she
flicked dismissive fingers at me
in a way she hoped would be invisible
to other kids
It wasn’t just Columbine
Children were dying video gun deaths
all over the US
Other teens were being snapped in two in car accidents
breakable as bread sticks
or taken to lonely woods
and crumpled like test papers
At the swimming pool after
I watched a teen boy toss Meghann like pizza
his arms newly strong, voice
loud, sure, traveling out over the heads of toddlers
and kids in grade school
moms with infants at breast
She fought for footing on the bottom of the pool
came up sputtering
happy to be vanquished
I wanted to tell someone I loathed potpourri
you cannot lock it out,
nor bar the door against it.
like the midnight cinnamon
and ginger wafts
from the kitchen
of the insomniac
finnish woman one floor
down, sleepless and dour,
prone to nocturnal baking,
it simply arrives,
happiness, that is,
through the vents,
the small cracks
in the parquet or plaster.
it goes from room to room,
examining your favourite things,
touching them, gently,
not saying why it’s come,
where it’s been,
who it’s seen.
it overlooks the dust,
the lingering odours
of squander and rancour.
astonishing how much
space it claims, something
so small as this happiness,
so small and so demure.
it does not want you to fuss,
not even to fill the kettle
let alone put it on.
what would be the point?
it won’t be staying long enough,
not long enough for tea.
there’s somewhere else it’s going,
it has someone else to see.
goodbye, goodbye, till next time.
it’s come and gone before.
its bags are packed and ready.
they’re waiting by the door.
Woman With A Mango (by Gauguin): Etta Cone
Gertrude you are a Gertrude are a Gertrude
no one in Baltimore is a Gertrude anymore
If you can’t say anything nice about anyone
come sit next to me
and I did
under Mother and Child come sitting
in Baltimore in Paris in Baltimore
no one is a Gertrude is a Gertrude enough
There were the two of us, you said, we were not sisters
We were not large not then we were not rich
we were not so different one from the other one
an eye was an eye was an eye, gazing
A woman would smell
a woman would hold out her smell and smell and petals
would drop from Large Reclining Nude
white petals cool and fragrant and soft
and dropping and dropping and dropping down
Three Lives my fingers sore my wrists aching typing
Come sit next to me you said
and I did sit I did sit I sat and sat and after I sat I sat and sat
I typed until the “G” key stuck
Three lives, yours, Claribel’s, mine
I was sitting and sitting under
Woman With a Mango under Blue Nude
I was sitting with textiles draped over me
hoping their weight
but they are not you, because you have–
Alice? Alice? Alice?
Is an Alice?
Gertrude you undertake to overthrow my undertaking
You say my dessicated loneliness is
across the ocean in Baltimore and you pull Alice onto
your lap on the large brown broken armchair
where you sat with me
while Pablo’s portrait strains above
You sit, running Alice’s hair through your hands
her hair through your fingers
Your fingers in my hair unpinning tangling
your lips against my neck
There is no there there now
there is Henri there is Vincent there is Paul and Paul there is Gustave
my neck a neck is a neck with a rose
that died and petals like brown rain
I like what is, you said
I like what is mine I like it
*with reference to: Three Lives, Stanzas in Meditaion (VII), Sacred Emily, by Gertrude Stein
-from the book Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014
It was nothing, you say. I wasn’t planning to hurt you.
You just overreacted.
You’re just so pretty, I had to.
The things you do provoke me.
Seriously, abuser. You actually think that I know what your limits are?
One thing is heartily clear about abuse: the abuser, not the victim, determines its end-point. It’s called control for a reason.
How do I know that when you ask me if I’m 18 yet that it’s because you don’t want it to be statutory?
How do I know that you, cat-calling, won’t be the one jerk that follows me?
How do I know that when I wave the offer of a drink away, you won’t follow me to my car?
How do I know when you rub up against me at work that you won’t deny me a future promotion?
How do I know that when you beat up the furniture, my face is not next?
How do I know that the bruises on my arms won’t be on my throat the next time?
How do I know that when you rush towards me, fist raised, you know you aren’t going to slug me?
How do I know when you throw that knife and slur “I want to kill you” that you actually won’t?
How am I supposed to guess I’ll actually survive you?
You think I’m a fucking mind-reader? Buddy, I’m not. And that, my friend, is why you’re fucking terrifying.
If you are trying to understand abuse, I recommend this book highly, whether your abuser is a man, a woman or someone on the continuum: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft
From Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes
Half A Baby
I’d been there
to photograph the woman’s belly, that tiny unyeasted loaf
that Lilliputian bump, that craving convexity that yearned towards
life but could not manage
and the baby’s father, who tucked his hand atop
the still-beating second heart of his wife
this firstborn son to this couple
who had believed they were charmed
I was also there when the night turned soft
a hush, only the three of us at 4 a.m., and something
tangible in the air, brushing our skins
tender as feathers whispering our arms, our necks
Don’t tell me how macabre
it was with my camera, its heavy clacking
We were there, three of us, then four
five briefly, then four, then three
and the night was more astonishing than
the love I feel for my daughters
the night was more blistering than divorce
and we loved each other
He was only 20 weeks, halfway to whole, half a baby
half a son, half way, pushing down and out
and when his miniature head finally crowned
showing a black whorl of hair
time shuddered a little before dripping off the clock
The child slid through his mother’s labouring cervix
no bigger than dust
He sank through her vagina gasping towards air
and parentage, slipping through the hot bleed
A nurse caught him, small in her palm
wrapped him in a green receiving blanket
his lips as round as a cherry as he started to breathe
she passed him to his mother’s breasts and left us
his blue birth eyes jittered and opened
the lashes wet-clumped and his mother said
He has your ears
and her husband said He has your lips
he was covered in a web of blue veins
extra skin he never filled, protuberant bones
a dangling cord, vernix, merconium
It felt like silver rain
The parents named him Christopher Jerome, speaking his name
He convulsed, shivered his undersized death rattle, and stopped
I talked to him, to them
There we are, there we go, brave boy
sweet boy, and in this rare and grieving moment
I tried to speak his silence
I’m just going to lift, I told him, and
photographed his hand, the size of a quarter, as if clasping
first his mother’s, then his father’s
Now, ChristopherJerome, I said, I said again, there now
His mother touched her sore hurting lips to his forehead
Don’t speak to me
From ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes,’ poetry collection, Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2014
We watched TV, my daughter and I
sitting forward on the couch
legs and our arms aligned, pressing
as if we could get a hint
of what it was like to be conjoined
Once we had shared a body, of course
but that was twelve years ago
“Look, Mom!” Meghann said. “Only two
legs!” those two words repeating
(two legs, two legs) as the girls on the screen
toddled on their two legs, as their
two legs whistled them sweet down
a playground slide. Top-heavy, joined hip
to shoulder, each had a spine
a heart and lungs, but they shared kidneys
intestines, liver, blood and also
their red bud of sex. To part
them was to part something none of us
could understand. If they were
sweaters, yanks of wool would unravel them
Then they could be knit again
separate but whole
Their mother brought Cabbage Patch dolls to
the hospital, velcroed tight
and showed them how it would be, apart
The rip was loud
“Won’t they miss each other?” asked
Meghann, and I didn’t know how to
say I missed her even when
she slipped out of me
I didn’t know how to say their pain
would be vaster than the folds
of any mother’s love
I nodded, kissed her and
pulled her close
Four days later, one twin died, her own
heart not healthy, not sound, not good
Under my arms, I could feel
Meghann’s beating strong
The surviving twin craned left
into a too-large silence
On screen, the moment verbed
Meghann clutched me
She’d never seen a look that wide
Jane Eaton Hamilton, from “Body Rain”
You are making spaghetti sauce. There are no mushrooms in the crisper. You require mushrooms There are canned mushrooms in the pantry cupboard but you have just ·read that there are maggots in cans of mushrooms: twenty per can, per one hundred grams. This statistic startles you. You waffle, rationalizing that statistics can be made to say anything. You move to the pantry and open the cupboard. You climb and put your hands among the cans: you move peaches and green beans and tuna fish. You find three small cans of mushrooms, a total of sixty maggots, which for the four of you is fifteen apiece. You imagine watching the pasta covered in your spaghetti sauce curling around forks, larvae entering your son and daughter’s mouths, your husband’s mouth. The taste of canned mushrooms has always reminded you of rubber, nothing like the original, but perhaps this was not the taste of mushrooms after all, perhaps this was the taste of maggots. Maggots are things you’ve seldom seen. Twice in the garbage and once long ago your mother bought a piece of beef from the supermarket and turned it over to find it blue and crawling. She stood at the kitchen counter poking a knife at it saying Oh, oh. A few years back a sofa you’d left outside all winter had them bobbing like daffodil petals when you lifted the cushions. Your stomach heaved. Maggots are more disgusting even than slugs which are more real and slide across your walkways in the rain, black or mustard colored, sometimes with spots. you do not ever dream of slugs but occasionally you dream of maggots and coffins and the impossibility of breathing underground.
You open the three cans of mushrooms. You drain them. You throw the lids into the trash under the sink, carry the cans to the stove and place them beside the pot simmering on the burner, the glub and bubble of your spaghetti sauce. The smell of basil and oregano coddles your nose. You lift a can. Although you expect movement nothing moves. When you upend it, the mushrooms land on the sauce quivering normally. You watch them sink slowly out of sight and add the rest. Then you stir with a long-handled spoon.
My little thorn
you have grown on a thicker stalk
than I expected.
than I ever guessed you might.
You hurt me.
Nothing is as simple as that.
I hurt you too?
There are lotteries.
Your unlucky numbers tumble through
a bin of teenage years.
I never meant
to speak and so offend you,
to be a mother
to cringe from
and yet you say I am.
I remember before breasts and boys.
We were happy.
We lay together
in a moon crater,
swaddled and safe and bouncing.
Tall branched thistle
you were my baby,
my sweet girl,
the coup of all my days.
I am no longer
Precisely human in your eyes,
only old and big.
You come to me with scorn
that rubs like sandpaper.
The trick is
to bear this jagged war
The trick is to wear
sketch Jane Eaton Hamilton 2006
I once wrote a long poem, “allergy,” about serial murderer Ted Bundy from his (imagined) mother’s perspective. It was included in my first book of poetry from Brick Books called “Body Rain” in 1991. The excellent poet Méira Cook, whose new book out from Brick Books this spring, 2015, is the intriguingly-titled “Monologue Dogs,” and I had a conversation about “allergy” last year:
Here is my conversation with Méira about her poem “Adam Father:”
prickly pear, photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2013, Sedona
Life is a lot of fun sometimes, and one of them is when your poems get taught in high schools and then used to make something new (a la Amber Dawn’s glossas). The italics are mine. (I hasten to add that I did not participate in this project, so all of this belongs to Mac.) Hasn’t he done a great job?
Ringworm (with Jane Eaton Hamilton)
I’m sick with the sea
Salty, sunkissed soliloquy
With white caps
Bold and in all caps
Her adoring eyes
Brooding for the skin she never gave
To understand charm
We learn potential like a language
Oh how a lover is a fist
Bruising only to instill belief that you are still tender
Sweet pea where are you?
Between a cup of coffee and freshly potted daffodils
You etched my name on your palms and were not sorry
Reminiscing with the smell of blood orange
You put an apple on my cheek
And told me not to drop it
By Mac Ramsay
Twice this week, women I know have had plumbers accuse them of putting things down the toilet and causing thousands in damages.
So this is for them, an old poem from Body Rain about just such a happenstance:
I know him.
He comes with golden spikes
driven through his hands.
No one is as sad as he is,
no one has ben used more
or more filthily.
There are whores residing
in his houses, harlots
who cry on his toes for
repairs and discounts.
See? We have children and
no men; we raise cats and
gobble his coins with our cunts.
His radiance is what we crave,
his extravagant goodness, divinity
like a bellows, clean, male and
blowing sensibly across our dignity.
How superior he is
with his plumber in tow,
with his plumber who kows
we have shoved things down the
toilet, clogged the copper
piping just for this.
Oh, it is like loving a saint.
I don’t want to make another post today. I am supposed to be on my way to two seasonal parties. But I just heard that Love Canal is sending 100 truckloads of toxic waste to Canada. I am heartbroken.
This, too, is from my old poetry collection Body Rain from Brick Books.
I hit a boy with a gimp leg. He was walking by. He had algebra books in his arms. I wanted to pulverize him. I hit him until he was down on the tarmac then I jumped on him until I heard a bone crack in his leg. It might have been his good leg, I don’t know. This took about five minutes. There was blood coming out of his nose. Finally he passed out so I stopped.
I knew a girl who had never been hit.
She went around like that.
I got the lovely litmag ‘Poem, International English Language Quarterly,’ today from England. My poem “I Was Dead” appears in the section “Chosen by Marilyn Hacker.” I’m kinda stoked. It’s a kick for me, I have to admit. I wrote “I Was Dead” during NaPoMo this spring, so this is double the pleasure for me, it being new and all. The poem talks about a time when I was two and lost and was given up for dead.
by Jane Eaton Hamilton
If it starts to eye you
like a cinnamon heart
stand very still
blend into the background
of your dull life, into
laundry, dishes, stacks of paperwork
do all you can do
to avoid notice
become the yellow wallpaper
become the water in the trap of the sink
Whatever you do
don’t imagine the gaping
the lips, the teeth of love
don’t imagine butterflies
Whatever you do
Don’t think of dulcet dinners out
classical by candlelight
Don’t imagine love’s long eyes
her laugh, chocolate
or the slip of talented fingers
across your cheek
soft up your thigh
Turn away, turn away
from your need
Run swiftly through your town
cover your head with your arms
cry Help me!
If love still lifts you to its fleshy tongue
like a cinnamon heart
holds you to its palette melting
don’t go under its teeth as if you won’t shred
don’t slide down its esophagus like you won’t dissolve
don’t leak into its intestines as if love
were enough (even for this)