Liquid alignment of fabric and outer thigh. Slip. Which mimics the thing it’s meant to allow. Passage of air on either side of the tongue whose meat as if to thicken the likeness of substance and sound meets just that plot of upper palate behind the teeth. And yet at normal speed the very aptness loses its full bouquet. “Salomé was wearing red pumps and the palest of pale blue satin slips.” I would in my predictable girlhood have much preferred a word I took to be scented like Giverny: “Salomé was wearing red pumps and a pale blue satin chemise.” It’s taken me all this time to hear the truer difference—slip— which only wants a little lingering in the mouth to summon how it thinks about the contours of the body. So the speed of it— slip—and the lingering can resume their proper tug- of-war. The boy they’d had the wit to cast as Salomé, both nude and may-as-well-be- nude, was every inch presentable, flawless, as though one might live in the body and feel no shame. No wonder, forced to endure as they did the reek of the tidal Thames, our predecessors took this for the universal object of desire. The history of the English stage right there in the slippage between not- quite and already over and gone. And yes I get the part about predation the grooming in all of its sordid detail, I was never half so fair as this but fair enough to have been fair game. In a town with limited options. I’ve spent more than half my life trying to rid myself of aftermath so let me be enchanted now. Youth at a safe remove.
Copyright © 2019 by Linda Gregerson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
We have to bury the urns, Mother and I. We tried to leave them in a back room, Decoyed by a gas lamp, and run out But they landed behind us here, at the front gate. It is 6th hour, early winter, black cold: Only, on the other side of the rice-paper doors The yellow ondol stone-heated floors Are still warm. I look out to the blue Lanterns along the runway, the bright airplane. Off the back step, Mother, disorganized As usual, has devised a clumsy rope and shovel To bury the urns. I wonder out loud how she ever became a doctor. Get out, she says Go to your father: he too Does not realize what is happening. You see, Father is waiting at the airfield in a discarded U. S. Army Overcoat. He has lost his hat, lost His father, and is smoking Lucky's like crazy. . . We grab through the tall weeds and wind That begin to shoot under us like river ice. It is snowing. We are crying, from the cold Or what? It is only decades Later that, tapping the cold, glowing jars, I find they contain all that has made The father have dominion over hers.
Copyright © 2002 by Walter K. Lew. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.