Stitching and Other Poems
Iíll state the obvious:
seagulls stitch a lullaby
I confess, I stole the line from a student sestina.
There is something about the possibility of sky,
a hand suturing an eye
& sin (abstract, donít bother to define) condenses inside a bell jar.
Let me start again:
I once loved a man who gathered stone.
I watched him hack drift wood,
we knelt & waited for fire.
It was fall, in the Laurel Mountains.
We rode his V-Rod.
Nothing but the smell of decay
& our creaking knees.
He packed a picnic supper --
Nobody had ever done anything like that for me.
We made love that evening
against a tree. It started to rain.
We found a discarded bottle
& I collected drops of mud
bits of twigs, crumbled leaves
the outer shells of locusts.
Letís be totally honest:
When do the echoes of seagulls
ever linger in the mountains
but sometimes a stray bird swoops
& stitches a lullaby
& sound collects inside a button jar.
Each day we recover bits of ourselves
& slip them through a button hole
we stretch fabric taut
& let it sway behind us.
I made the class write a sestina.
It was winter.
They hated me anyway.
It was one of those semesters when there isnít enough vodka.
(Although I gave up drinking 1 year, 2 months ago, but whoís counting?)
One student lost her husband to cancer.
Another a husband to the Iraq war.
Each morning she caught the 31C,
left her two babies with a neighbor
& sat in the circle
& wept & nobody in the room knew any of this
not her classmates
who bitched about grades, the papers, the poems I made them read
not the girl
who wrote about watching her mother get raped
(I know what they say about poetry & biography)
not the girl who sat in class & recorded everything I said
as some type of evidence against my teaching
(everything you say can & will be used against you)
not even the young man who came to class drunk
his father died that semester.
Itís this simple:
The man I love is married.
I am forty-two & up until that moment
in the woods I never felt rain
or let a man peel back my sternum
with his thumbnail.
When I woke
I was covered in mud
& by the time seagulls & lighthouses
filled the worldís aquarium
& students fidgeted in their seats
I gathered my sins
(of which apparently there are many)
inside the button jar
& that damn studentís seagull
pecked at my eyelids
demanding I see something.
I love a man who rides a motorcycle
he is the only man I love.
The morning I read seagulls stitch a lullaby
I let him drive out of the bell jar.
This is all I have to say.
Looking out the kitchen window
Eve knows she has passed through a membrane
the moment the snake sends her an email
where he says he wants to stay inside
her forever until she begs him to stop
& she knows he is serious
the way that women know
the difference between a babyís cry
for hunger or please pick me up
& when she says, yes, darling, letís do it
the snake replies with a letter about the harvest,
his two daughters, their hair
floating in air, how their bodies arch
on horseback, how he canned apple butter
with his wife, and Eve watches his shadow
disappear, the way shadows curl under
autumn light & she studies
her shadow in the distance
she watches it hesitate
then pause & look back
to face the reflection looking out her kitchen window.
one day I will rise
at first a flutter,
then a foot caught on the edge
of your rib. It will happen suddenly
the day you fish through garbage
& search for your childís artwork
the scribbles on construction paper she crumbled
in her fist because it wasnít good enough
& for whatever reason
you find yourself in the garage
bare-feet slapping concrete at 2 in the morning
because pincher-gripping smeared newspaper is better than sleep.
As you sift through coffee grinds, egg shell & empty beer cans
you stumble on a bit of dried leaf
or so it seems.
You sit at the kitchen table
with only the sound of a florescent bulb to calm you
& smooth out orange & brown crayon markings
suddenly you understand death
how the human hand must shed itself free from the body
thatís when you know the leaf
you found at the bottom of the trash
nestled between toothpaste & strands of hair
is really a decomposed hand
that slipped off like a glove
to fold itself inside your palm
Among others, Laurie Mazzaferro's publication credits include Barrow Street, Poet Lore, West Branch, Pearl, 5 AM, New Delta Review, Unlikely Stories and Poems Niederngasse. She is recipient of two pushcart nominations and the winner of the 2000 Slipstream chapbook contest. Presently, she teaches creative writing, worries about her son, a talented visual artist, who attends Kent State, and rides a motor cycle. Hey, life's too short.
Photo Courtesy of Image*After.
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Poems Copyright © 2006 Laurie Mazzaferro. All rights reserved.