THE INNISFREE POETRY JOURNAL




   

 
Rosemary Winslow



BLOOD/WINE
                               
            1

Drink. Changes.  Love's mouth. Nuzzle and nub
of protection, after the workmen cut
the gas lines by mistake, weeks after the terror.
From a high window, I saw them pour--
out of the dormitory, their arms waving
like motherless trees, in the disaster
that might yet be. They were together
and laughing.  They aimed for the corner bar.
             
On my way home, I saw them lounging the bar,
laughing, talking, merlot, cheap whites, ale, spilling
on chins and sweaters, communion of gladness
as they waited, not eagerly, to go back where
they live, living in cells, where they learn and learn
and are not yet very much afraid. 

            2

Not very much afraid, the disaster canceled,
I went down into the metro to go home. 
We railed up above ground on tracks over-
hanging the city.  We stopped for no reason
we knew of, for an hour we sat in the train,
night coming down, lamps lighting up, dimming
the houses.  We waited and joked and told stories. 
We almost slipped by the next station,

the desolate platform, the washed down concrete,
we barely slowed down--we wouldn't have known
except for the news, how while we had waited
and laughed uneasily, a desolate
red streaming dress, its heaviness,
was lifted gently (yes gently) onto a gurney.
 
            3

Eleven o'clock news--suicide on a gurney,
counted  to Christmas depression. Dis-
counted, ill-fitting pair of shoes nobody
wants to put on. Irrational--        Out
over the edge, quick charge of the live
track, and each viewer a witness,
each survivor an heir
to the knowledge of lapsed reason.

How easy is it to feel that flame
the TV's rumoring wind fanned to ash
the very next second in the slick icicle commercial?
Did she wear a necklace?  A lost
lover's heart? A cross? An initial?
Suitcase of grief riding with her over the rail?

            4

Suitcase of grief, quick fix over the rail
of the bar, latched by sparkling ice, a flash
of insight arrives in the negative
everlasting comma of night, spindled
as X-ray, sheer bone left visible, grave
half-life, ending's medicine crossing
the brain's speeding life--

Every one writes in the Book of Pain.
Each page opens onto the next person's.
Terror makes its marks in innocence
harshed out in Xes, crossed paradisal swords. 
You can't go back. Grief's cell is cramped.  Stone angels
stand at the door.  Pages bleed into others. Changes.
Open the book.  This is the body.  Drink.

            5

Drink in flood-tide, one sinks, or survives.
Listen.  The stringent sibilance calls you.
What will you do?  Do you think it desires you
alone?  Every moment the door stands open.
Every moment any one can walk through
and meet the others. Each a particular of sorrow.
By repetitions of division the cell grows.
Root, dicotyledon, leaf, then bracted flower. 
Strength comes in numbers, adage's
eternal witness, thread through ages.
But look.  They are walking as we walk,
leaning on staffs or arms, taking the leaned
to the pool of freedom.  It may be a bar,
a bedroom, a temple.  Stirred, ready to enter.   

            6

Stirred.  That's how we entered the red flowers,
rose fragrance, to glide together
on tree-shined water, two with oars,
face to face, one direction, sharing power,
love bound.  The clenched hand loosens, offers
its salty palm.  It wants to let go, the suffered
taste.  She.  He.  Brachiate, it opens.
They drift through white lotuses,
afternoon light sifts through motes and mosses,
swims, rests, swims, rests, on white saucers.
A hand lingers over boat-edge, another,
water like skin, smooth satin, edge of the world.
Lovely to move toward evening, a fire,
a roof, a soft bed, a loverís promise, solaced home.

            7

Solaced home, to feel the water's skin, our skin,
an amazing thing, to live, forgiving it all.
Disembodied saxophone moan in the next
building grounds my being. I am here.

I don't like to think nothing will become
of me when I die.  Concrete mausoleum,
its secret of satin, a slow waste, the hot
unpyred commercial fire too homely.

I think I'd like to be laid out in the good
earth, in my faded blue sweatshirt and jeans,
in a pasture under a good tree--an apple--
to feed what I love.  As for the remainder
of me, whatever that is, if, may it
nuzzle at love's mouth.  Drink.  Be changed.


THE DAY

And so the day came
after the spring
of loving my mother
after the summer
of letting her go
under the limber pines
I lay on my back
arms stretching out
over me over the house
holding me to the blue sky
soft
how the green
melted and spread
over me and settled
fluid mobile
the tight upraised
shoulders of my childhood
let loose their protection
settled as the tense bands
of muscles had let go
in the spring
from against my
mother
and I had loved her then
without harm without wanting
her to be
anything she was not
and I was hardly noticeable
the movement of air barely touched
the ribbons of planks beneath me
and the blue-green tufted needles above
I was large     rich
I was gone

And not for awhile did I
rise up,
walk in the day.   


MOTHER, THEN & NOW

        I

I see her perfect open lips
moving through a song
standing over the kitchen sink,
a steady ping of whey
from a bag where cheese is being made
keeps perpetual time in a shiny pot
on a white stove under a wooden drying rack.
I see me drying dishes, singing along,
her thick hands in gray suds, her hair drowsed.
As always she is elsewhere and
meat for supper burns in an iron skillet.
Smoke piles up in the room.

Sometimes it was "Clementine,"
but "Abide with Me" and "Nearer
My God to Thee" were her favorites.
It didn't seem strange to me
to want heaven
instead of the life we lived.

Evenings she would sit under a lamp
with a broom-length stem
and a bleary yellow shade.
A tiny needle was in her hand
weaving threads over a hole
in one of our socks.  She was
so tired her head kept drifting
toward her breasts like a stuck record.
In another part of the room father
quieted finally and snored
while the TV blared
then fuzzed out to a wad of cotton.

One time (was I eight, thirteen, ten?)
I watched her descending the stairs
in a black chiffon dress, hemmed in
by shadows and plain plaster walls.
Her skirt splayed out from the belt,
umbrellaed the narrow passageway.
Her hair--I remember so well--
was arranged as in the drawings
father made on scraps of paper
and scattered about the house,
loose generous ripples falling about
his ideal womanly curves,
the bright red lips too full to be real.

And yet I never saw him kiss her,
or I can't recall, but when she bent
to kiss me that time, I was transfixed
by the transparent sleeves
over the skin of those kitchen arms
turned all of a sudden to smoky
magic.  A scent of spices
trailed her, stranger
than pies, and her lips'
good night  good bye to my cheek
had the astonishment of blood on snow,
so warm they were and bright,
and her eyes up close were large, they had
a sadness deeper than I could fathom then,
encompassing and vague like the fabric
where it drifted across my arms,
and father pacing across the worn linoleum
like a cat wound up between us and the door,
darting looks at the clock. 

        II
   
Outside a fit of wind
blows the maple and Queen Anne Cherry leaves,
flying up their pale undersides.
In the kitchen and over her bed
pale wallpaper is slipping down.
I watch her fitful rest, the red-orange
flowers on the paper are bridges
of the air, curling down
over her faded hair, and the brain
stricken and spilling the family secrets.

I lie down next to her, on the bed
she tells me he bought for them, he brought
her here after the honeymoon, she says
it as if she loved him then,
he brought her here, to this house
with the .22 caliber gun notched by
the door, the house her father-in-law
built, whose house this was, by law,
but not the bride, who wasnít his,
though he tried to take her.
And her husband my father
loved her but soon determined
he'd rather have married her sister
with the pendulous breasts (I remember this)
or else the neighbor with perpetually red
lips, waved hair, and the wrong religion.

And then she watched (this part
I add, I know) her children scattering
elsewhere away like her
in darkened corridors.
                                    And other
things happened to her
and some to me
and some the same, it seems
a gulf across the room,
my feet careful
as if the floor
might fall,
her cheek like gauze,
my hand there,
my mother, her sadness
sinking, wringing  
my own face--
How young and beautiful she was!
How she is going away from me forever.


BESLAN, ET ALIA

I cannot see it, but I see it. Stepping
Out on the porch tonight I hold
The silvered skin of the half-moon's
Waking in my palm.  It has no feeling.

Nature is Innocent, and comforted.
Even the woman terrorist last night
Who belted explosives over her womb
As her hand fondled the cord

In the lamb-white diaphanous light.
A milk-tooth gnaws westward
Across faint stars from Beslan,
Children with flowers in hands

Under the thronging bells,
Shrapneled and stilled.
They will be strewn with flowers
In the bright September air.

They will not breathe it any more
Nor talk nor eat nor skip nor wake.
And there will be more.
Do not tell me not to mourn,

The world dwells in unschooled
Silver.  Sleepless feet rake planks,
Unreasoning night, leaves sough
Above my head, shine
 
White as wafers--
                                How many gone?

Restless, home, I wait for news,
Dread the light.

                                        --September 4, 2004











Rosemary Winslow
Rosemary Winslow teaches writing and literature at The Catholic University of America.  Her poems and essays on poetry have appeared widely in  journals and books, most recently in Beltway, Poet Lore, 32 Poems, The Schuykill Valley Journal, and Voices from Frost Place, and Don't Call It That and is forthcoming in two anthologies:  Pinstripe Fedora and Valparaiso Poetry Review.  She has published numerous essays on sound structure in poetry in Poetics Today, Language and Style, Composition Studies, The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Poetry, and other places.  She recently won the 2006 Larry Neal Award for Poetry. Her work has also received awards and grants from The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts, NEH, the Vermont Studio Center, and other foundations.  She lives with her husband John, a visual artist, in downtown Washington, D.C.



                                    

 

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