I mean to mark the Midway Day
With soundings in this verse-form. Say,
Muse, how you hate it!
I know your taste for excess. But
These jingly rhymes must undercut,
Counter, deflate it.
I trust them, and I can't trust you
To practice self-restraint. In lieu
Some Watts Tower to my fulcrum age
I've shut you in this little cage;
The stanzas should be varied slightly,
Thus: some more and some less tightly
Nipped at the waist
And ankles, odd lines fitting an extra s-
yllable in, or with a dextrous
Flick of the wrist
Some rhymes set slant, and so forth; still
It's tight, you'll have to try, Muse. Trill
Like a canary,
Bright jailbird, swing your wee trapeze!
Come come, don't sulk. Laudamus, please--
At 21, by now, what did
I want/expect? At least one kid,
More like a triad;
The man; to've written books in whose
Thickets a troubled child could lose
Itself, as I had.
Might I have made a kid-glove fit
Of wifery and kiddy lit
And being Mother--
Slipped chipper as a Chinese foot
Stunted into my doll-size boot--
Or sensed I'd smother
And howling burst the seams--or ripened
Like a summer squash? It's happened;
The odd wife sprouts
In marriage as in fertilizer.
Single, shall I grow full-size, or ... ?
Doubts or no doubts,
"The family experience"--
Engrossing, commonplace; one's chance
To mother better
Than Mother did--I've missed that; I'm
Too old, now, to begin in time
At last. A matter
I hope will come to matter less,
Though there's no question childlessness
Than spinsterhood. Since all the strong
Kind types go off the market young,
To find one single, able, williing
Sane, and minimally appealing
But there's still time. "Too old" 's what's poignant.
Only one other disappointment
Losing the Baptists: wash of grief.
(A hamstring harped-on loud enough
Not even Jesus, Ethicist
Survives this far; if not the Christ,
O Kinder, Kirche, let me go,
How can I bless you now? I know,
I trust, the center
That holds, holds more than family
And faith, and warms a place for me
In bleak mid-winter.
Start Spinster Lib? We spinsters pull
Up stakes and fly to Istanbul
On low-cost charters!
Of the past ten, I've wangled three
Years foreign. And mobility
Is just for starters:
Spinsters who spend the night don't phone;
Spinsters go trekking on their own
And have a swell time.
One, on a solitary jaunt,
Comes close to people couples don't,
Glued in the birdlime
Of one another's omnipresence
--Fresh views, late talk, warmth; tumescence
Also (which thrives
On talk) unlooked-for, not surprising,
Nice. Nice way of improvising
Then, after breakfast, off you go. It's
No bad thing for "nature poets"
To solo through.
Though hiking with a friend is splendid,
Hike got less of me than friend did
When one came too.
In every sense you're more acute
Alone. You note what's what en route,
You're not distracted.
Plus (irony) so long as you're
Abroad upon the tumbling moor
Where Life's enacted--
So perilous, so gorse-gilt, so
Abundant--friendships seem godsent.
Always, you're shaken--
Joy is a shock; you're ... reverent.
By tough old maid wayfarers no
True friend gets taken
For granted, nor do loving's other
Faces blear through custom either.
Spinsters have learnt
To value what they can't get used to--
Values many a wife's reduced to,
Wishing she weren't!
Too cramped, she envies (irony)
Us bachelor girls, so long less free
Than outcast! Yearning
To spread roots in a roomy plot,
We crumpled them into some pot
And went sojourning.
The life abroad calls into question
Style, assumptions Yank and Christian,
Habits (how you
"Two-handed engine"?--fork your plateful);
Forces thought and choice. I'm grateful.
The road from Lou-
isville to Lund was passing strange
But now I'm through I wouldn't change,
Cresting my peak age,
For kids and home. A Lu:uhv'le shut
Mind, close and smoky as a hut,
Came with that package.
Things have the disadvantages,
It's claimed, of their advantages--
Of light and air, then.
I think so. No one gets it all.
The grass is green here too; I call
My draw a fair one.
Originally appeared in The Little Magazine, reprinted in Whinny Moor Crossing (Princeton, 1984).
|Judith Moffett has published ten
books in five genres, including two volumes of original poetry, Keeping Time
and Whinny Moor Crossing, and two of Swedish poetry in translation. Her
work has appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, and
Literary Imagination, in many other periodicals, and in numerous anthologies. She was awarded an NEA Fellowship Grant in poetry and an NEH Translation
Grant, as well as grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation among others, in
support of her poetry and translating. She taught creative writing at the Iowa
Writers' Workshop and for many years at the University of Pennsylvania. She now
divides her time between Swarthmore PA and her farm in Kentucky.
| Rhina P. Espaillat
Marilyn L. Taylor
Award-winning artist and photographer Jo Yarrington on writing, liminality and the dream void.|