Dove, Interrupted

Don’t do that when you are dead like this, I said,
Arguably still squabbling about the word inarguably.
I haunt Versailles, poring through the markets of the medieval.
Mostly meat to be sold there; mutton hangs
Like laundry pinkened on its line.
            And gold!—a chalice with a cure for living in it.
We step over the skirt of an Elizabeth.
Red grapes, a delicacy, each peeled for us—
The vestments of a miniature priest, disrobed.
A sister is an old world sparrow placed in a satin shoe.
The weakling’s saddle is worn down from just too much sad attitude.
No one wants to face the “opaque reality” of herself.
                                                                 For the life of me.
I was made American. You must consider this.
Whatever suffering is insufferable is punishable by perishable.
In Vienne, the rabbit Maurice is at home in the family cage.
I ache for him, his boredom and his solitude.
On suffering and animals, inarguably, they do.
                                                    I miss your heart, my heart.


Copyright © 2013 by Lucie Brock-Broido. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 4, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"Richard Hugo wrote that every poem has a triggering or initiating subject. If the poem is going to live, that idea, that ideal must be—eventually—jettisoned. You just can’t push the poem around to make it adhere to the tantrum of your original intention. Instead (if you’re lucky) what happens in its place is the generated or 'real' subject.
'Dove' was incubating for at least seven years before it found its way. In its earliest incarnation, it was thrice its length, confected in a scraggly prose, and it was called 'Cow Watching a Train Go By.' At the center of the poem was a discussion about nuclear disarmament, accompanied by the wither of shame we all felt about having anointed George W. Bush as leader of the Free World.
Of W’s twitchiness and general discombobulation (a bickering of Nucular proportions), Philip Gourevitch wrote in The New Yorker, in an article about the foreign policy debate between John Kerry and W, that a look of erasure came over the President’s face: '…a blank, stricken stare for which the French, alas, have the most apt expression: he looked just like a cow watching a train go by.'
In my 'Dove' poem (she is a character that slips in from time to time in my new work), it took some years, but, in the end, the cow was finis; Bush was long gone. The real subjects were all there to begin with, but I just had to have the wherewithal to hush and dismantle all that initiating jazz away.
I can bide my time. The poem, finally, had its way with me, discombobulating the clenches of my original volition. A regenerated subject came in to take its place. Eventually the demon editor—that would be my self (and she is even more willful than I!)—took over, after such a long and willful gestation. There was a great hullabaloo of scratching and hollering and scissoring. And then I had my way, my say, with the work at hand, at last."
—Lucie Brock-Broido