The Twin Cities of Minnesota has been my home for many years. Our region is fortunate to have a marvelous community of poetry writers and readers fostered by The Loft Literary Center, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Saint Paul Almanac, Minnesota Book Awards, McKnight Foundation, Graywolf Press, Milkweed Press (which published one of my books called In a Sheep’s Eye, Darling), Garrison Keillor with The Writer’s Almanac and his Common Good Books store, and many other organizations, individuals, and enterprises, large and small. My fifth collection of poems, Between Us, will be published in 2016. For more information, please visit my website:www.MargaretHasse.com
Author's Note: G. K. Chesterton wrote that “poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” I admit that cheese doesn’t yet make an appearance in any of my poems, but I have written obsessively about many other subjects, including the main character in the three poems posted here.
Two-year-old Charlie loves water,
loves the force of water
in gutters, pipes, the second hose
bought to keep peace between brothers
who spray tomatoes with the intensity
of fire fighters at a five alarm fire,
loves the sources of water:
faucet, penis, rain, spit.
He longs like a pilgrim for wet places
where his worship is
bathtub, swim pool, lake.
To praise water,
he secludes himself in the bathroom.
Ascending a stepping stool to the sink,
he opens valves to an endless rush
of new pressure in copper pipes.
So much water, why not share it?
Give it away until it seeps
through the floorboards,
showers into the kitchen,
fills the bowls on the table,
flows on the heads
of his amazed mother and brother
who do not immediately recognize
that grace might descend like this –
from a complete enthusiast
who needs to be forgiven
for being generous
with whatever he loves.
The Mouth, Its Run
At three years old, Charlie stuttered badly,
a cold engine, hesitating, stalling.
His Good morning created a gaggle
of consonants so drawn-out his older brother
behind a citadel of cereal boxes at breakfast
asked: Who taught him to talk like Porky Pig?
I despised my students that year,
the ones who pierced their tongues,
hammered barbells through flesh,
sucked metal tacks on the roof
of their mouths, making slobber
and airy lisps on purpose,
while daily our blameless boy, sentenced
to the hard labor of language, his face
flushed with the effort of Hello,
chewed the cud of repeated sounds.
The speech therapist advised patience
with what can be a passing phase.
Don’t finish his sentence.
Ignore his impediment.
Give the horse his head and he’ll race free.
What was predicted came true.
Loose reins unleashed
the great gallop of speech.
Because he is only thirteen, his anger
flares, a gassed fire.
Because he is only thirteen, he snarls like a cur,
dislikes everything about his parents,
especially what they like,
books they read, jokes they tell.
Because his voice trips and falls,
as if on a loose rug, he breaks into tears.
Because the salt caves in the pits
of his arms are newly rank, he locks
himself in the bathroom for a hot
shower, steams paper from the wall.
Because he is small for his age,
he disparages his brother’s thighs
carried by those long bones:
You’re flabby, he screams, dangling
upside down like a bat from
the upper berth of their bunk bed.
Because he struggles to read
when others kids are quick
to spit words from their mouths,
he runs as if to surpass the wind
on a windy day, bedtime on a summer day,
chores and studying and rules every day.
Because he is only thirteen, sometimes
he still curls in his mother’s arms,
grubbing for stories he stars in:
how he could climb from his crib
to claim his own baby bottle,
how he’s graded A+ in music
for notes his trumpet hangs high
like the sound of wild birds
over the heads of other kids
who can’t believe he’s only thirteen.
-all poems reprinted from Milk and Tides
©2016 Margaret Hasse