Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: poem

National Poetry Month: The Hole in Her Cheek

One of mine today!

National Poetry Month

Trenchcoat: a poem about Columbine

Bags of potpourri that the Littleton, Colorado, fire department made from flowers placed at Columbine High School: 3000

Trenchcoat

 

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

giggling

happy to be vanquished

 

I wanted to tell someone I loathed potpourri

 

 

 

Sweet criminy, Warsan.

Just read it.

The House, by Warsan Shire

The fleet-footed thing among us

fleetingness

happiness.
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 radiators,
the small cracks
in the parquet or plaster.
uninvited,
unannounced,
unreserved,
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.
genial, uncritical,
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.

–Bill Richardson

Poet Brigit Pegeen Kelly has died

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Brigit Pegeen Kelly

I was sorry to hear that poet Brigit Pegeen Kelly has died. Her work will stay with me, and her poem “Song” will always shatter me.

Song

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Eileen Myles Animated

Woman With a Mango

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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

you said

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

anymore

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

Hey, abusers…

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

 

 

Half a Baby, a poem

Love will Burst

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

 

Just—don’t

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

and breathed

 

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

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—

Don’t speak to me

Just don’t

The Twins, a poem

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From ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes,’ poetry collection, Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2014

The Twins

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

beating clear

 

The surviving twin craned left

eyes huge

bewildered, thrust

into a too-large silence

On screen, the moment verbed

Meghann clutched me

She’d never seen a look that wide

Breathing Underground

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Breathing Underground

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.

Enough by Ellen Bass

JEHblackdress1

sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

“No. It will never be enough.[…]

How could we be replete

with the flesh of ripe tomatoes, the unique

scent of their crushed leaves.”

From Ellen Bass’s poem “Enough” from the Academy of American Poets.

 

Saguaro, a poem about parenting teens

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Saguaro

 

My little thorn

you have grown on a thicker stalk

than I expected.

Sharper

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,

hardly divine,

only old and big.

You come to me with scorn

that rubs like sandpaper.

 

The trick is

to bear this jagged war

like labour.

The trick is to wear

protective gloves.

Méira Cook asks me questions about “allergy”

JEHportrait1

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:

Méira Cook/Jane Eaton Hamilton and allergy

Here is my conversation with Méira about her poem “Adam Father:”

Jane Eaton Hamilton/Méira Cook and Adam Father

A poem by Mac Ramsay

pricklypear

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

Landlords and their plumblers

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:
Landlord

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.

Love Canal

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.

JEHLoveCanalBodyRainBrickBooks

CBC

Crack, a poem

Crack

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 Was Dead, a poem

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.

POEM

An anti-Valentine poem for the un-lovelorn

Valentine’s Day

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
become sugar

Whatever you do
don’t imagine the gaping
burgundy mouth
the lips, the teeth of love
don’t imagine butterflies
Whatever you do
don’t sigh

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
orgasm

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)

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