We pace each other for a long time. I packed my anger with the beef jerky. You are the baby on the mountain. I am in a cold stream where I led you. I packed my anger with the beef jerky. You are the woman sticking her tongue out in a cold stream where I led you. You are the woman with spring water palms. You are the woman sticking her tongue out. I am the woman who matches sounds. You are the woman with spring water palms. I am the woman who copies. You are the woman who matches sounds. You are the woman who makes up words. You are the woman who copies her cupped palm with her fist in clay. I am the woman who makes up words. You are the woman who shapes a drinking bowl with her fist in clay. I am the woman with rocks in her pockets. I am the woman who shapes. I was a baby who knew names. You are the child with rocks in her pockets. You are the girl in a plaid dress. You are the woman who knows names. You are the baby who could fly. You are the girl in a plaid dress upside-down on the monkey bars. You are the baby who could fly over the moon from a swinging perch upside-down on the monkey bars. You are the baby who eats meat. Over the moon from a swinging perch the feathery goblin calls her sister. You are the baby who eats meat the bitch wolf hunts and chews for you. The feathery goblin calls her sister: "You are braver than your mother. The bitch wolf hunts and chews for you. What are you whining about now?" You are braver than your mother and I am not a timid woman: what are you whining about now? My palms itch with slick anger, and I'm not a timid woman. You are the woman I can't mention; my palms itch with slick anger. You are the heiress of scraped knees. You are the woman I can't mention to a woman I want to love. You are the heiress of scaped knees: scrub them in mountain water. To a woman, I want to love women you could turn into, scrub them in mountain water, stroke their astonishing faces. Women you could turn into the scare mask of Bad Mother stroke their astonishing faces in the silver-scratched sink mirror. The scare mask of Bad Mother crumbles to chunked, pinched clay, sinks in the silver-scratched mirror. You are the Little Robber Girl, who crumbles the clay chunks, pinches her friend, givers her a sharp knife. You are the Little Robber Girl, who was any witch's youngest daughter. Our friend gives you a sharp knife, shows how the useful blades open. Was any witch's youngest daughter golden and bold as you? You run and show how the useful blades open. You are the baby on the mountain. I am golden and bold as you. You run and we pace each other for a long time.
Marilyn Hacker - 1942-
For K. J., Leaving and Coming Back
August First: it was a year ago we drove down from St.-Guilhem-le-Désert to open the house in St. Guiraud rented unseen. I'd stay; you'd go; that's where our paths diverged. I'd settle down to work, you'd start the next month of your Wanderjahr. I turned the iron key in the rusted lock (it came, like a detective-story clue, in a manila envelope, postmarked elsewhere, unmarked otherwise) while you stood behind me in the midday heat. Somnolent shudders marked our progress. Two horses grazed on a roof across the street. You didn't believe me until you turned around. They were both old, one mottled gray, one white. Past the kitchen's russet dark, we found bookshelves on both sides of the fireplace: Verlaine, L'Étranger, Notes from the Underground. Through an archway, a fresh-plastered staircase led steeply upward. In a white room stood a white-clad brass bed. Sunlight in your face came from the tree-filled window. "You did good." We laid crisp sheets we would inaugurate that night, rescued from the grenier a wood- en table we put under the window. Date our homes from that one, to which you returned the last week of August, on a late bus, in shorts, like a crew-cut, sunburned bidasse. Sunburned, in shorts, a new haircut, with Auden and a racing pulse I'd earned by "not being sentimental about you," I sprinted to "La Populaire." You walked into my arms when you got out. At a two minute bus stop, who would care? "La Populaire" puffed onward to Millau while we hiked up to the hiatus where we'd left ourselves when you left St. Guiraud after an unambiguous decade of friendship, and some months of something new. A long week before either of us said a compromising word acknowledging what happened every night in the brass bed and every bird-heralded blue morning was something we could claim and keep and use; was, like the house, a place where we could bring our road-worn, weary selves. Now, we've a pause in a year we wouldn't have wagered on. Dusk climbs the tiled roof opposite; the blue's still sun-soaked; it's a week now since you've gone to be a daughter in the capital. (I came north with you as far as Beaune.) I cook things you don't like. Sometimes I fall asleep, book open, one A.M., sometimes I long for you all night in Provencal or langue d'oc, or wish I could, when I'm too much awake. My early walk, my late walk mark the day's measures like rhyme. (There's nothing I hate---perhaps I hate the adipose deposits on my thighs ---as much as having to stay put and wait!) Although a day alone cuts tight or lies too limp sometimes, I know what I didn't know a year ago, that makes it the right size: owned certainty; perpetual surprise.