The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Karren Alenier


For Hilary Tham (1946-2005)

On the days leading to the wedding
of Heaven and Earth, we come-hither
Druids⎯noses all pushed deep
into our tree alphabet⎯still noticed

fiery bursts of miracles:  the child
born in time to be held by a dying poet,
the daughters⎯Aglaia, Euphrosyne,
Thalia⎯attending round the clock

to their mother's opera (sizing her head-
dress, deciding between carmine red
or Prussian blue gowns, applying
her indelible make-up), and the husband

locked into his studio tuning his grand
piano to her last aria⎯a bonfire
of staccato and trills. "So quick bright
things come to confusion." And we

bards summoned for our healing
lyrics leaf through our vowels but know
no shield of white poplar can protect
the friend lying under the rose

moon from the successive fireworks
exploding in her body. We hold
her hand, struggle to speak,
let tears roll down our cheeks.

In the cemeteries of Paris⎯
Père LaChaise, Montparnasse⎯
she had mapped it out for us:
death has its place, its audience.

She, who believed in us, though
what we believed, we invented.


According to the legend, a curse befell
the large blue diamond plucked
from the third eye of an idol in India.

My mother wore the Hope diamond
that exquisite gem said to curse
all who touched it. Picture this:
a society renegade
Evalyn Walsh McLean entering
a ward at Walter Reed removing
from her neck what she called
her lucky charm, letting this legless
private, that handless
sergeant, and finally my teenage
mother, a candy-striper in love
with fashion, feel the weight
of that intensely blue
stone that if set in the sun
would phosphoresce red. Imagine
that necklace purchased in Paris
from Pierre Cartier by the headstrong
young woman who eloped
against her family's wishes
with the heir of The Washington Post fortune.
Envision my raven-haired, high cheek-boned,
ruby-lipped mama who married five
times⎯the lonely girl who cherished
the letter her daddy wrote from a battleship
in the South Pacific wishing his princess
Rona, a sweet sixteen and she standing
with a long line of kings⎯Louis Quatorze,
Louis Quinze, Louis Seize⎯who all
wore this crown jewel. Maybe the curse
in touching those 45.52 carats
accounts for why she was never satisfied.


How delicate the man-of-war,
A blue bubble loving heat.
Give berth when it floats to shore!

The old man did his Navy tour
for WWII at a desk. Land under feet.
How delicate the man of war.

He never learned to swim and bore
this secret in brooding defeat.
Give berth when he nears the shore.

His sensible wife insisted there's more.
Dying she told their son, "Take him to the beach.
You know how delicate our man of war."

His eyes, the color of the tropical sea but sore
from tears, drank in the fringed and bobbing sheet.
Give ample berth or you're barbed for sure.

"You don't know how love cleaves the core"
he yells at his son, "I'm stung. I drown. I bleed."
How delicate the man-of-war.
Give wide berth when it floats to shore!


When I die,
don't weave a shroud,
don't dig a grave. Take
my carbon and make me
graphite. Don't press me
to diamond and wear
me on your finger
or neck.
When I die, I don't need to be
blue gem, quarter carat or greater.
I want to be a pencil given to an ardent
poet who will hug me tight. For that, I would

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