Schools are the main industry in my neighborhood of Bay Ridge, and there are all sorts of wonderful opportunities for children and youth to take part in sports, arts, charity and so on. There's ballet for kids, art for kids, poetry for kids. However, there is not much for adults. Apparently we grow up and then we make money and that's it. Obviously, I do not agree. However, when you go to the few poetry readings there are, it seems they have a lot of smut, hostility, self-pity, money and drunkenness. Is that what "adult" means - as in pornography? I think not. I may try to work out some problems in verse and stories, but always have in mind the desire to enhance, to seek beauty and inspiration. "Without vision, the people perish." This does not mean there is no struggle or pain, obviously.
I want to share a few poems from my manuscript for Further Collected Poems, which I hope to publish soon.
Having no cup, I used
My hands, holding the palms
Even, the fingers bent
A little, tightly joined,
Squeezing out all the air.
Water from the spigot
Beaded with cold held fast,
As four times I bent down
To suck it like a bird.
My eyes reflected there;
Even the sun glanced in.
Now, the old saying false,
What else is possible?
THE MIRACLE WORKER
First I heard the unearthly screech and growl
Of an animal whose name I did not know,
And ran into the living room alarmed,
To hear my husband say it was the film.
It was Helen Keller, beautiful in a white dress,
Terrifying in her rage and despair, the face
Distorted out of human recognition.
There was the famous bull fight at dinner
With the teacher who would not give up, though the father
Wanted to stay and have an adult conversation.
Half blind, seeing something no one
Could imagine, driven by nightmare memories
And a hope that was almost insane, Anne Sullivan
Had landed. The family resisted her in vain.
Her language of hands brought light to the child.
Walls of order and peace were built around her.
In the end, the memory of water broke the shell;
The deaf and blind found language, and could speak
And therefore love, and Anne had found a home.
And so it continued, everyone still deaf,
Blind, angry, groping in radiant dark,
Falling and misunderstanding each other,
As people do in three dimensional color.
And where is the Sullivan to train my hands?
Sacred conveyance in which I travel, heedless
Of your miraculous design and delicacy
(World of balance and cooperation, impulses and slow
Unseen processes, world of tiny battles that maintain
My precarious well-being, object of love and solicitude
To the One who alone made you, spinning water and clay
And fusing bits of molecules without touching anything,
Infusing the spark of life, the nuance of intelligence, into
The coils of the brain, connecting the neurons
In the spine, forming the cones behind the eyes,
The winding ways of the cochlea, the tongue’s muscle
And taste buds, the innards with their acids and cilia,
Shaping the feet with their nails and heels),
How am I so angry when I must deal with you,
Feel pain, and be at times preoccupied with some aspect
Of you that is imperfect, when I must go for help
And submit your holy precincts to the search
Of strangers at a tremendous loss of time?
There is not an atom of you that is not also myself.
And when we are parted it will be a tremendous rending,
An unbearable blast that tears trees out of the earth
And brings darkness at midday, and sends this poor little soul
Naked and screaming into the universe, to be enfolded
In the Original Hands and straightened and expanded
And connected, made ready for you, who will then be rid
Of all we have done to you from before the beginning.
Until then, speak to this terrified tyrant inside you.
I will try to listen.