Spring wafts up the smell of bus exhaust, of bread and fried potatoes, tips green on the branches, repeats old news: arrogance, ignorance, war. A cinder-block wall shared by two houses is new rubble. On one side was a kitchen sink and a cupboard, on the other was a bed, a bookshelf, three framed photographs. Glass is shattered across the photographs; two half-circles of hardened pocket bread sit on the cupboard. There provisionally was shelter, a plastic truck under the branches of a fig tree. A knife flashed in the kitchen, merely dicing garlic. Engines of war move inexorably toward certain houses while citizens sit safe in other houses reading the newspaper, whose photographs make sanitized excuses for the war. There are innumerable kinds of bread brought up from bakeries, baked in the kitchen: the date, the latitude, tell which one was dropped by a child beneath the bloodied branches. The uncontrolled and multifurcate branches of possibility infiltrate houses' walls, windowframes, ceilings. Where there was a tower, a town: ash and burnt wires, a graph on a distant computer screen. Elsewhere, a kitchen table's setting gapes, where children bred to branch into new lives were culled for war. Who wore this starched smocked cotton dress? Who wore this jersey blazoned for the local branch of the district soccer team? Who left this black bread and this flat gold bread in their abandoned houses? Whose father begged for mercy in the kitchen? Whose memory will frame the photograph and use the memory for what it was never meant for by this girl, that old man, who was caught on a ball field, near a window: war, exhorted through the grief a photograph revives. (Or was the team a covert branch of a banned group; were maps drawn in the kitchen, a bomb thrust in a hollowed loaf of bread?) What did the old men pray for in their houses of prayer, the teachers teach in schoolhouses between blackouts and blasts, when each word was flensed by new censure, books exchanged for bread, both hostage to the happenstance of war? Sometimes the only schoolroom is a kitchen. Outside the window, black strokes on a graph of broken glass, birds line up on bare branches. "This letter curves, this one spreads its branches like friends holding hands outside their houses." Was the lesson stopped by gunfire? Was there panic, silence? Does a torn photograph still gather children in the teacher's kitchen? Are they there meticulously learning war- time lessons with the signs for house, book, bread?
Marilyn Hacker - 1942-
Wine again. The downside of any evening’s bright exchanges, scribbled with retribution : stark awake, a tic throbs in the left temple’s site of bombardment. Tortured syntax, thorned thoughts, vocabulary like a forest littered with unexploded cluster bombs, no exit except explosion ripping the branches. Stacks of shadowed books on the bedside table wall a jar of Tiger Balm. You grope for its glass netsuke hexagon. Tic stabs, dull pain supercedes voices, stills obsessive one-sided conversations. Turn from mouths you never will kiss, a neck your fingers will not trace to a golden shoulder. Think of your elders — If, in fact, they’d died, the interlocutors who, alive, recede into incoherence, you would write the elegy, feel clean grief, still asking them questions — though you know it’s you who’d provide the answers. Auden’s Old People"s Home, Larkin’s The Old Fools are what come to mind, not Yeats. In a not-so distant past, someone poured a glass of wine at three in the morning, laid a foolscap pad on the kitchen table, mind aspark from the long loquacious dinner two hours behind her, and you got a postcard (a Fifties jazz club) next day across town, where she scrawled she’d found the tail-end of a good Sancerre in the fridge and finished the chapter. Now she barely knows her friends when you visit. Drill and mallet work on your forehead. Basta! And it is Màrgaret you mourn for.. Get up, go to the bathroom. You take the drugs. Synapses buzz and click. You turn the bed lamp on, open a book : vasoconstrictor and barbiturate make words in oval light reverberate. The sky begins to pale at five o’clock.