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Anne Becker



BALLAD OF A THIN MAN

I did--I wrote him once.  A postcard:
gypsy girl in a gauzy wedding dress,
soiled white cardigan buttoned on the bias
        across her small breasts,
photograph of a dead man's face propped
        in the window,
the deceased peering out over her left shoulder,
as if the ramshackle shack she leaned against
was an open casket, as if a house peopled with
        death.
At the end I signed, "St. Annie.  P.S.
You don't need to thank me this time 'again'"
The message read:  "What I miss, what I regret,
is the relationship you used to have with words.
What happened to that sweet chain--pick it up
        again,
it's yours."  I never received a reply--I didn't
expect to, but it was, I thought, something he
        needed to hear--if ever
he was to write again, as he once had, words
        that sang--
Rapt.  Joyous.  Pure.  They were.
(In those few luminous years before rank
        power
overtook him, made him forget words
        don't bow to our command,
how we must wait, must stand perfectly
        empty
so they'll slip gladly into our hands.)
Fish words, even when amputated from the
        iridescent body of song
that spawned them.  (Who else would use
        the word categorize,
that spiderlike word, all angle and web,
        in a love poem--
although he denied it was love--rhyme it
        with crucify?)
Now, when it seems we are all crumbling, cracked
        or decayed--
altered beyond belief--he writes me back,
sends a picture, the perfect picture, one I
        instantly recognize:
tall thin man, lips held tight, his dark
        hair
wreathed in a nimbus of light.


WHAT THE EAR HEARS THE LIPS SING

Of course I would think
we'd be drinking coffee
after we're dead: dig my grave
both long and narrow--

of course a hymn, a gospel
song must take hunger, take
thirst into account: make my
coffee neat and strong--

of course, what else is there
to carry beyond the tomb--our
dirt boat, its green sail: two,
two at my head--

but the dark aroma at
cup's bottom, its bitter taste
balanced by the moon: two,
two at my feet--

sweet wafer--persimmon
velvet--under the tongue, as it
sails us through that final
night.  Never to wake.  Never

to remember that dream.






Anne Becker

Anne Becker's poems have appeared in Antioch Review, Southern Poetry Review, Washington Jewish Week, Gargoyle, Washington Review, and elsewhere. She earned an M.A. from the Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University. She won the Maryland Heritage Poetry Award in 1984 and has received a Fellowship in Poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her collection, The Transmutation Notebooks: Poems in the Voices of Charles and Emma Darwin (Forest Woods Media, 1996) was completed with a MSAC work-in-progress grant. Ms. Becker serves in the Maryland Poets-in-the-Schools program, teaches creative writing at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, provides poetry tutorials, and conducts a special poetry workshop, Writing the Body, for those who have experience with life-threatening or chronic illness. Following her interest in teaching across disciplines, she has presented a workshop at the Corcoran School of Art on the use of language for the visual artist, read and lectured at the University of Connecticut for a course on the nature of scientific thought and at the Corcoran for classes on the history of science and technology. For many years, she served as Senior Producer of Watershed Tapes, which include those of poets such as Ruth Stone, William Carlos Williams, Jean Valentine, Czeslaw Milosz, and Joseph Brodsky.





                                    

 

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