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-
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?