Pianissimo: A Suite
1. Persephone's Song
and its accompanying embarrassment of butterflies
(thousands of them racing headlong to their deaths,
to clog headlights and car washes,
abundant and fertile)
winter creeps slowly in
vines die quietly, leaves curl edges and learn
what it means to be brown. This lesson they have learned before.
The green garden lizards move sluggishly
ready for a long sleep.
bees who during the summer
swam through pollen thick air with a lazy greed
now buzz aggressively, frantically, threatening if you step too
close to where they
fill their days with the last desperate few bits of summer nectar.
He will touch me, and I will remember what it means to
search the summer gardens
for a single narcissus.
For a place where I can step away
for a goddess' daughter.
As my daughter
prepares herself for a winter away from me
I watch her.
I can see how her cheeks burn
secretly. I am neither that old nor that blind.
She hides this secret love for her jailer from me
and thinks I do not know those same secrets a hundred times over.
I know how her eyes fill with (long for) his darkness.
I do not begrudge her this time away.
Even I need the ice.
The death of flowers, the covering of snow and greyness.
My face grown old in the same mirror where hers glows.
I grow so tired in the hot, slow months
when life is new and brassy.
The dignity and solitude of winter are welcome
3. Leda's Daughters
My mother was raped by a swan.
I've always wondered
what that must be like.
They say, "Don't shower,
try to get a good description of your attacker.
Go directly to the police."
How would you do it?
"Um, yeah, he was this really large bird, feathers. Beak.
How could their humor, the quirk of their lips
begin to express the shame, the fear?
There were two of us,
Helen got the attention
a fleet of fools.
We didn't really get along.
I've seen the fragments
of the huge pure white shells
My mother (as mothers will)
A piece of my childhood, you might say.
Or a peice of hers, fragmented, ripped away.
what it must be like,
to be violated
by something so beautiful--
I waited for weeks while he hunted for a boar. And then,
there he was, teasing me away with flashing eyes that spoke
of faraway walls and promises and golden apples.
I really do not think that old king will care.
He'll not notice me gone.
Perhaps I will even leave a note.
I'll not pine, like a woman gloating over scraps of whitened
I plan to grasp my own destiny,
not have it ripped out from me by a tearing beak.
4. Goddess of Love
I come from the sea foam.
Born of a gale and a rage
(so they tell me).
Perhaps that is why
I can always taste
the salt of tears
upon my lips.
There was this woman on the bus
holding a pan
that made little heart-shaped muffins
She wore a green sweater, freckles on her nose
and more than anything I wanted
to make a poem out of her.
But she pulled the rope and with a
climbed off the bus. . . and into the sun.
I once put a spell of attachment
on a man I (thought I) loved deeply
I held his ring
looked into his brown eyes
and tied his soul to mine with a few whispered phrases,
a little incantation
some spit and hair.
I don't think he ever knew
what I was capable of
But I did.
After a while
the love died
but the spell held tight.
He felt drawn to me
and neither of us could remember why.
It took too much blood and too much pain
to finally break us apart.
when I see him
I remember the intensity of my wish for him
feeling slightly embarrassed
I avoid his brown eyes
and stay away from spells that might work.
Eve Thinks of Adam (again)
I thought soon as I seen 'im; all covered in clay breathin'
heavy from somethin' or other--
"here comes trouble."
Standin' there namin' things that did fine with their own
knowledge of themselves 'fore he ever come along. You'd a thought
he created them, instead of just making up some funny
words for 'em.
Despite what he claimed,
It didn't take me long to convince him to taste the sweetest
fruit I ever seen.
Was like he'd been waitin' for a betrayal,
for me to do something that he could blame me for.
He always wanted to control the situation; and me havin' eaten
first just got his goat somethin' fierce. After that, the convincin'
took about two seconds.
How was I supposed to know he'd been tellin' the truth about
all those rules and "thou shalt not's"?
He's the one got it from God hisself. I never even had the
pleasure of meetin' the big one upstairs before the showdown
and moving day.
Really. And That ole snake's mad at me too.
Well fine, I say. You just wait. Someday, I'll get me some names
of my own.
Then we'll see who has control over the situation.
The Flower Seller
( a painting by Diego Rivera)
Cream-yellow flowers, fevered heads
raised in awareness.
Their swollen sex protrudes.
But you will say they are only flowers. You will protest I
read too much in.
And the young girl, too
at the edge of being "woman."
Essence of becoming.
Her head is slightly bowed
in shame? No,
ungrasped yet worship for,
to this bursting unisexual Eros.
body, too, is sexuality
unconscious union of shapes.
The "v" of a blue shawl.
The grasp and mergeance of long,
each clasping the other,
joining in a double "v,"
body to body.
But the black dress of
Feet like an infant, Lineless.
smooth. Soon lost.
in placid worship of this
by your talk of clothes,
I look into my own closet
for what insights and memories I've stored away.
I am surprised by what this small interior space
reveals about me.
It is so cluttered-- too full.
dresses sag to the floor to be lost in the mending
pile. Shoes are crushed and rifled through
Blazers line up smartly; they wait for their turn
to look professional & grown up & properly
The organizer I bought lies empty
(except for the occasional spidery web that I sort of like)
I've outgrown so much in here--
My belly (no longer flat) shows too much
in that clingy green stretch skirt that, paired
With a black angora sweater made me feel
And please don't mention the black (see through)
snap-crotch body suit within my hearing.
Those pants there never really fit--
but I kept them because someone kind gave them to me--
(the thoughtful gesture wears far better than
the scratchy,tweedy wool).
There are no skeletons here
except perhaps of a dead lizard (no longer green and full
who (dragged in by the cat whose green eyes glint in the corner)
in this dark, cramped place
found no sanctuary.
Its tiny bones
(if in the sun, where it belongs)
would dry and crack.
But they are here.
in my messy
To untie those bad knots
the harmful effects of well meant intentions
to for give and for get.
We all try, and fail or succeed as we all must.
The heart, unlike the mind,
It still feels a surge of blood
for old love
Even as we try to pretend not to know why.
Despite our best intentions,
in our heart's long-closed rooms,
Curses and evil lovers really do last forever
not because of some strong magic
but as a result of the tenacity of bad knots.
Do not suffer a witch to live.
Heretic, I stand before your grave.
I imagine it is yours--
though the years have worn smooth the marbled name.
Trees send their roots through your bones,
where your heart used to beat there is more than an emptiness.
I know you. Woman.
Alone in your years
(with maybe an old ratty cat for company
curled around feet grown icy)
gathering the fruit of others' loves, for potions
Sometimes a well-chosen death.
How could they believe you were evil?
Unless being alone is a sin.
We all have an unmarked grave waiting somewhere.
You used to feel your blood
coursing passion through a tired body,
carried aloft in a body dying slowly around your
still aching heart.
I know you.
And I find no comfort in your grave.
The ground is sunken, shallow
and if I were to lie down, here,
above your bones
would I feel your hands on mine?
I still believe in ghosts
But the grass is too wet,
and smells like sand.
Your name is nothing
but a disappearing memorial to a forgotten holocaust.
Nine million women sacraficed in a bloodthirsty
The mob that demanded your life
lies still nearby.
Their passion, too