Blesok no. 31, March-April, 2003
Planes That I am in Do Not Crash
Sophie B. Hawkins
Ear against the boom box
I wait for her word to exalt me
give meaning to the things I do
to shine for you – the pomade
even olive oil couldn't remedy,
the constant braiding and rebraiding
of the curling tail (payos?) you left
when the rest of your head was shaved,
the Lady Slipper (protected by law)
I plucked for you, bodies stripped
of all but pencil and pink
you embodied in my hands
running over my skin,
Her song didn't mention her
coveting a girl, exactly. In fact
she slurred the word
so I had to rewind
a few times to hear it clear
but then I pictured a Tootsie
Pop of which you were the center
and I started counting licks.
after Frida Kahlo
On a slivered bench by the river, you waited
for the Piscine mush – the arcanum – who if seen,
could be something other than what's seen,
that life cycle, that masked extinction, that onus.
Then you saw it: doves (winged fish?)
offering gilded cesti (the shine like minnows!)
life's wish embossed in Heiroglyph:
revelatory and incomprehensible!
Irony – Titian's lady-curves –
your tie to earth, to body.
We walk with a pail full of dirt dug
from the compost mound out back
to the boxes lined on the walkway in front
one for each of the four windows,
our fingernails blackened
at the half-moon tips, our skin
darkened in creases from kneeling
over potted Impatiens.
She wore surgical gloves
when she handled the plants
to spare them brown edges,
the glove's bitter powder dusting
the leaves. Her work was slow and deliberate;
she would not let me practice:
I could only watch listening
to her recite the planting instructions
as if I was to store them up, a cactus,
for the day I was to take her place.
I asked about the name, at nine,
my beginner's ears not clear
enough to hear nuance, and wondered
how a plant could be impatient.
She evened the soil in the boxes,
watered the wilting plants in excess
arranging them on plates
to catch what fell through
because Impatiens, she said,
do not mind wet feet,
and not enough water
will kill them certain,
their tiny heads facing west
as they are. I watched her time
the imbibing, looking at the minute hand
of her wrist watch, the small circle
of reflected light from the face
shining in my eyes. By now,
the sun had already begun its descent
to the low orange sky, our Saturday closing down,
the only thing left, to hang
the four completed flower boxes.
I could only think that tomorrow
outside on the front steps, my mother
might cradle me between her legs
and brush my hair until sunset,
the summer sun warm,
the flowers blooming full force.
Planes That I am in Do Not Crash
We recognize truths at first
as those things that happen to someone else,
our hands clutched on the armrest
a skein like the one our bodies will become
at the hotel when we arrive –
never once thinking
we could become a fatality
when the nose dives toward earth,
and the fireball roars through the cabin
disappearing – pouf – so quietly,
the charred gravel of your hand bones
mixed, indecipherably, with mine.
First, Inferno (i).
I dab Bactine on my cut hands,
the hospital smell
a calm among accumulating lists,
like paper knives lashing
my skin. On the television:
write a new poem, take out the trash;
in the foothole of my worst pair
of shoes: get your Ph.D., email your sister;
under the cat:
buy litter, Bounty, soap, and learn Polish.
Next to the lists where nothing's crossed
off, columns of numbers
measure my trudging through the bill month.
I wash sheets in the
meantime, trying to keep my night life smooth glass
because I dream of paper
piles of it, like dried leaves
blowing in a squall.
I can't order them,
or order them to stop. I open my mouth
to the sky, beg for the old scents
that held onto me
the minute I stepped off the school bus
and into my mother's arms:
newsprint, antiseptic, chocolate chips.