Garments Against Women: The Innocent Question 

by: Anne Boyer 

And happiness had always seemed the province of the idiotic and immoral, which is why I wanted it so-much so-often so-all-of-the-time. There are many things I do not like to read, mostly accounts of the lives of the free. 

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THE WOMAN OF GLASS

She usually wanted to be someone, somebody else
I’ll try that again,
She usually wanted to be something else or just     somewhere

Something sky
Something honey comb
Something woven
Something Raven

There wasn’t time anymore to gather rocks in her burlap sack
No calcite or obsidian
Her presence was still and running dry
To be lured by C r o w: first Spring

Her voice usually tumbled into the mountain
A sound that spoke only to the trees

And they listened

And when she would crawl back to River, looking for stones
She turned to sea glass, that faded into the moss-coated bank
The bank of what she knew

Moss sticky on her tongue

Walls unfamiliar

Body becoming sanded down

Next Spring, she would climb back out
And she would grow wings

From Raven, she would circle like a vulture
And from below, her coat was stretched like a light cotton
Like an old crystal caked in smoke

Or glass

Turned cloudy
Without speech
Without reflection

The only vulture in her was the talons that she used to claw back to him

Unobserved for even Crow

 

 

Seattle

The hydrangeas made a nest for themselves here
Blush, cotton skin, raindrop chin
Raccoons move in their gaze, like fog – crawling low under wet trees
And you’re missing home
The moon’s fist is rooting for you

The ash from the fire sits on bare toes
You’re crying because it’s cold?
You’re crying because the light went out?

The cricket hymns follow you into bed but you can’t see them
Not even the stars in Seattle speak
The candle wax is falling onto the windowsill and you remember when dad picked it out for you
The bull’s head sits on your shoulders when your parents give you a call, just checking in
Grinning through your teeth until they grind, caked in tobacco dust while you sit in a cold metal lawn chair in the garage
“Yes, it’s great here, really fine here.”

4 years and the Cascades still mock you with their ridges jabbed into your neck because you’re still no one here
The cocktails last night were surrounded by empty wooden stools
Smooth enough to remind you of phone calls and friends
Smooth enough to pull you under water
But the rain here drowns you out anyway

Sometimes your own hair chokes at your breath until you fall into a new dream
Into a new town
And you wake up from the nightmares
You’re still here

The rain still falls down trees that are dying out front
And getting a degree and a job and a boy-friend – maybe
Feels like next month
Feels like white space
Like fresh, untouched, white snow
Like lost

The hydrangeas are always rooted, always blushing
And you don’t even care that they’re calling this home without you

 

The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift – not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove out of
boredom would be enough to make us even.

by: Billy Collins

The Best Cigarette

There are many that I miss
having sent my last one out a car window
sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded one, of course:
after sex, the two glowing tips
now the lights of a single ship;
at the end of a long dinner
with more wine to come
and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
or on a white beach,
holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations
of flame and gesture;
but the best were on those mornings
when I would have a little something going
in the typewriter,
the sun bright in the windows,
maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
I would go into the kitchen for coffee
and on the way back to the page,
curled in its roller,
I would light one up and feel
its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,
trailing behind me as I returned to work
little puffs of smoke,
indicators of progress,
signs of industry and thought,
the signal that told the nineteenth century
it was moving forward.
That was the best cigarette,
when I would steam into the study
full of vaporous hope
and stand there,
the big headlamp of my face
pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.

by: Billy Collins

Aristotle

This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the wall of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.
This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes—
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unshoulders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward’s child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things.
So much is crowded into the middle—
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avocados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall—
too much to name, too much to think about.
And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electronic line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair,
and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit
thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.
by: Billy Collins