It is that time of year. As per usual, I put off taking my taxes to H&R Block. The month of March always gets away from me. Between Spring Break and birthdays and research papers it’s been a busy month.
I read Atlas by Katrina Vandenberg while I was in Mexico. I bought the book while I was at AWP on the recommendation of a friend. The book is amazing. I copied several poems into my journal, because when I transcribe a poem, I feel like I understand it more. The language and content of these poems are fascinating. This is the blurb on the back of the book:
In the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, a virus fueled through the tulip trade, making the flowers’ veined petals so beautiful the price of bulbs soared. In the twentieth century in America, blood tainted with the AIDS virus was inadvertently transfused into the veins of hemophiliacs, eclipsing “the purpose that briefly lit their brilliant veins.”
Here are some of my favorite poems:
Jack O’ Lantern
My sister amd I grew pumpkins, cinderellas
by the vineful, until they nudged the feet
of Daddy’s sugar snow corn. She remembers waiting–waiting for their shells
to quicken with rain and each moon’s phase.
waiting for our father to carve the faces
we drew on the pumpkin with pencil, because
je saod girls could cut themselves with knives.
Here is what nobody seems to remember:
She was nineteen and pregnant and apologetic.
I was twelve and we were both aware that in fall
all things are round apples and raindrops,
harvest moons, squash. She asked him to carve
the smallest pumpkin in the parch for the baby
amd our father walked out, left us alone, two girls,
three pumpkins, slotted spoons, a butcher knife.
In the mirror the dark made of the kitchen window,
blushed by leaves, I asked her not to cry. Instead,
she cut into the pumpkins head and scraped
its wet insides from grainy walls, and then
abadoned her spoon. Her fingers wrestled
seeds from the pale gourd pulp until they slid,
separated from its skul through her hansd,
first as droplets, then as strings of pearls.
She said, we don’t need father anymore.
Wre can carve this ourselves. Watch me
slice out lips and eyes where non has been before.
When she hunched to light the votive,
it sputtered then it glowed. And after, when
we went outside to look at her finished lantern
from the road. I said I liked the way her light
shone through the face that flickered in the dark.
All Those Women on Fine September Afternoons
When she baked a pie, my mother’s hands were blackbirds;
they flecked butter at heaps of sugared
apples. Her hands were wings around the piecrusts edge,
and she fluttered it until it swooped around,
and down. Never worry your crust, she said.
You love crust like a child; roll it
and imagine it pretty and whole.
My grandmother could weigh flour
with her hands and measure vinegar with her eyes.
She rolled her crust with a rolling pin
cut by her father from a single apple limb.
My mother cut star cookies from what was left.
I think about my mother and her mother
and every mother before they came along
the days I roll out piecrust with the rolling pin
my grandmother gave me: the rolling pin
that was part of a tree, swelling apples
from blossoms, apples to swell and dimple
crurst. My God, think of it, all those women
on fine September afternoons like these,
rolling piecrust and not worrying,
seeing things whole.
When he was dying, she stayed with him all night,
but one night, restless. she walked around a corner
and found a dim hall full of children’s breathing
rising from small white beds. She had drifted into
the flating, the children’s hospital boat
being rocked to sleep in the harbor again
the way it was a hundred summers ago.
The horizon of her life had vanished–traffic
lights, students with Chinese food takeout boxes
stories down. Now bustled dresses drooped
over the backs of chairs: now immigrant mothers
in flimsy shifts bent over beds and whispered,
tendrils of their hair escaping their tidy knots,
their feet unsteady on the pitch of breath.