I live half-time in western Massachusetts and Chapel Hill, NC. Good friends and good poetry in both places, so always a little torn. I am “still” (at a time of life when “still” is too often a qualifier) working in high tech (after a first-career in educational reform); married, terrific step-children. Poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Tiferet (2016 Poetry Award), other journals; first book, The Scheme of Things, David Robert Books 2015. For more information, please visit my website, www.hildeweisert.com.
The Persistence of Roses
White roses of Kleenex pleated and held
by bobby pins, their leaves fanned out in petals
flowered on the cafeteria table around me.
A hundred other kids bore down profoundly
on the Great Big Test whose results would mark
our lives. I’d finished half an hour ago, a lark,
and waited, bored, for the sweating lot. Me,
alone in a ring of roses. Outside: the not-me.
Now, outside this waiting room are people in clothes,
but here we’re all in filmy gowns, pink and roses.
A girl, a young mother, an old broad, and me.
The girl’s eyes are more afraid, and so we
others are all mothers. The marks will be
different, each dear body, or the same – our “tests”.
But there are lives of roses in our breasts,
calm waiting past the ring of me and not me.
My chest’s a knothole and my arm’s a stick.
I creak and sigh like something on a hill.
No – that’s my right side, left is human still –
So – I’m half tree, half me; half well, half sick.
What was it Daphne did? Did I do half?
It wasn’t love I ran from – yet the birds
I watch approach me almost seem to laugh
as if they knew the lies I’ve told, the words
I always thought I meant. Ah – the human
side keeps digging, searching for a curse,
or something in the life, the shadow looming
in a thousand craven acts. “Have mercy,”
says the tree, as if it knew this hill
is not a judgment, but a place to rest;
as if two mismatched halves could make me whole,
and sun and rain and earth could make me blessed.
Where the nipple was is air; what’s left
a ribby floor that life’s receded from –
and so has touch. And now, its mate’s gone deaf,
dumbfounded. Practiced fingers feel like thumbs.
What a nipple does is concentrate
a cloud of fireflies into a flame
of light, or from one point elaborate
the hidden filigree. But “does” is not the same
as what the nipple was – not flesh alone
but all that flesh had learned: The warm frisson
before a touch; the lush suspense of thought
circling – the edge soft, the air taut.
So hold your hand away, and let me feel
it draw me, as it draws its silent wheel.
I wake from dreams and call for Mommy – Call
for who she was when I was only small
and Mother hadn’t brought her chill, the cigarette
that kept me at arm’s length. I call
again and through the spindled bars I see
the door is open, someone comes for me –
She’ll take me from this dream, she’ll hold me tight
and settle in the chair and stay the night
with arms I settle into, into rest –
forgotten wanting – and the only breast
I need, its rise and fall erasing time.
I breathe along, and, soon, my breathing slows,
for all I need to know, I know: I’ve called
her name and she came back to me. We hum
together, safe again, my mommy, me –
Who am I
kidding? It’s not all
roses, or words that rhyme.
It hurts. And then there’s time
(no metaphor). Yet transformation
can not only soothe;
what rises out of form
can be the truth,
Or can be made (not “meant”) to be.
No, rhymes don’t make a “reason,”
and what the universe might tell, it can’t be bothered telling me.
I am one woman in one turning season,
a Spring that returns “recurrence” to its root:
one unrepeatable day, alive and absolute.
“Mercy” was first published in the Cincinnati Review (Summer, 2013).
© 2017 Hilde Weisert
© 2017 Hilde Weisert
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