Two Poems

FAMILY BATTLES

 

  1. 1. Christmas 1964

My uncle stares at the TV throughout
Our midday feast, erupts with “Fucking Krauts”
Three times, which I’ll repeat on the way home
And be spanked, my Barbie taken from me.
We didn’t often see my father’s family;
This sad-faced man, introduced as Eddie,
Spent most months at a VA hospital
Thorazined and crying in the chapel
For his buddies, two decades after the invasion
At Ste Mère Église.  There seasickness and waves
Wobbled the Allies’ legs as bullets kissed
The sand, as mortars spewed from bunkers hidden
Beneath dunes.  Eight men from his platoon survived.
Eddie winks at me and twirls the carving knife.

 

  1. 2. Sanctuary/Requiem for a Nun

“St. Mary Magdalene,” the rector jokes
As I, dragged to this confirmation class
At dawn, stare dozily through frost-etched windows,
“Is often the girls’ favorite . . . ”  A few blush
At his strange opener; and then I’m passed,
From knees beneath the table, a book one kid
Has filched from home: vein-tangled, sweaty breasts—
Their black bra too—adorn the jacket spread
For Faulkner’s tale of Temple Drake.  A belle
Turned whore, she’s transformed by loss and contrition
When her child dies.  “. . . Because hairdressers call
On Mary as”—his chilblained right hand stretched
Toward my bent shag—“their patron slut . . . er, saint.”
Free me, O Lord, to burn, or freeze, and pay.

 

  1. 3. Sewanee: 20th College Reunion, 1999

The cornerstone, now thickly choked with weeds
And fallen leaves, is easy to miss—
I scout the path with my flashlight, alert
For snakes. The chapel’s bells strike ten; their tower,
Like the black gowns we wore flapping to class,
Pay homage to Oxbridge, which gathered funds
To rebuild a college burned by Union troops:
Those mills belching smoke in Yorkshire landscapes
Would have starved without cheap Dixie cotton.
An antique chest, earrings, some hand-cut glass—
Freed by remains of a maternal dower,
I joined the few girls allowed here, too smart
Not to learn to surrender when amiss
In history class, where home wars rarely bleed.

 

From Lost Addresses: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2017)

 

WITCH

 

Moonlight is infinitely
More dangerous.  It sleeps
In the boredom of gray winter nights, dulled
By the flat light of fog.
Only the patient can read.

I have the genius of patience,
Restoring myself to myself, ignoring
The fat croak of distance.
My breath is a shadow for mirrors,
And it holds the whole world.

What can you see there?
A dance of mice, or the slouch
Of great apes?  You may wonder, or smile
At your own silhouette:
It’s a subject for study,

Like any other, and of as much use
As any other.  I am content
As the bird on my shoulder—
My gift to the world, he pecks at,
Hectors the stars.

It’s not unfamiliar—they may
Even move.  What proof
Do you have against us?
We need no more music, we have
Our own fingers.  The smiles of years

Burn in our throats.
The trees are my sentinels,
And they whisper what’s near.
I am quite happy here; I like
Being useful.

 

From Lost Addresses: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2017)

 

Diann Blakely (June 1, 1957 – August 5, 2014) was an American poet, essayist, editor, and critic. She taught at Belmont University, Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, the Watkins Arts Institute, and served as the first poet-in-residence at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. A Robert Frost Fellow at Bread Loaf, she was a Dakin Williams Fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She won two Pushcart Prizes and has been anthologized in numerous volumes, including Best American Poetry 2003.

Her first collection, Hurricane Walk, was listed among the year’s ten best by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; her second book, Farewell, My Lovelies, was named a Choice of the Academy of American Poets’ Book Society; and her third volume, Cities of Flesh and the Dead, won the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America as well as the 7th Annual Publication Prize from Elixir Press.   She was poetry editor at Antioch Review and New World Writing. Her poetry collection Lost Addresses: New & Selected Poems was recently published by Salmon Poetry. Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson is forthcoming from White Pine Press and Each Fugitive Moment: Essays, Memoirs, and Elegies on Lynda Hull is forthcoming from MadHat Press.

 

 

 

Current
Share This