22 May 2006

Self-fulfilling poesie.

I think I'm in big trouble.

If you swap man for mouse and subtract much of the drama below, you'll have a description of what has been going on this weekend at my house. No, not childbirth en pleine air, but a mouse attempting to eat through the wall of my home office. For three days now it has been crunching and scratching. The cats have lost interest completely.

I really hope that other poems I've written aren't acted out in a similar beast fable manner.

Here's the poem in question:

from Ploughshares
Winter 2000
Guest-edited by
Sherman Alexie
Issue #83Vol. 26/4


Son of a felon,
his father was famous
for eating through the wall
of a Wisconsin prison.

Seven hours later
his conception
in a Villanova railcar.
It was a year of locusts.

All he knows is clothing:
days with the flat iron
and dry cleaning fluids.
Starch. I tape my hems
straight, and nothing
gets past him.

His father began
by stripping the paint,
selling it in squares,
enjoying the smooth
panic of poison.

What else would drive
a man to fill his belly
with lath and plaster?
He was full for days.
The one thing he gave
his son was hunger,

hands in the fabric,
smoothing the warped
back of my skirt.
But murder, two men
dead in a bathroom.
I want to die on

an afghan, at seventy,
beside two musty
Irish setters. Not the pin
in the eye, not glass
baked into cheesecake.

How to trust a man
born the night
his father was fished
from the junkyard
lake bottom. Here
in my bed with aloe
on a burned hand.

And his mother
giving birth in a bucket,
a dead man’s son,
trees crackling, blood
on the swamp reeds.
She can show him where
to put that empty mouth.

~Mary Biddinger


J. Newberry said...

Is this one of those art-imitates-life or life-imitates-art conondrums? (Is "conondrums" the plural of "conondrum?" Should it be "conundra?")

Your cats may be on strike . . .

Penultimatina said...

I'm afraid it is! (I personally like the flair of conondrae but I am sure it's wrong).

I think my cats are in violation of their latest union contract for staging this mouse-out. Of course, I'd rather they didn't bash the wall through with hammers...

Stephanie King said...

Wow. I really enjoyed that poem.

Byf said...

Gives new flair to the phrase "a man or a mouse."

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