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In horror flicks attics are bad enough,
but basements, where nightmare lives,
They are what’s at bottom.
I’ve circled this house looking for answers
and passed the door to these stairs downward
a hundred times, no, a thousand. After all, we know what’s here –
do we not? Your white eye tells me you’ve seen it too.
Now with a flash light I find agonies and terrors I expect:
blood-stained sink, radioactive mudpool, veins reaching deep underground,
the monster I keep alive – peering, at once watchful and wary –
it’s up to no good.
Of course we enjoy it.
There’s the sealed room with three hexes on it:
Pain is at least proof of itself –
proof I have basis for everything.
The Vegetable Eater
At a farmer’s market on a green, housewives
from Sierra Leone shop for a wake.
Their veils are edged in gold. They murmur funeral songs,
tales of fire:
“Fire, fire,” they whisper. “I will carry a reed of fire
into the house of death.”
I make my way, keep my eye on them,
on the psychology professor pregnant with twins
who hunts for blue potatoes,
on the anarchist slumping all dejected
in the boxed cocoa pastures, on the gaggle
of college kids: they gaze too long
at sausages under glass,
shun cookie samples, pool for a bottle of wine.
Now, see those trailing children tied to their shirt-tail
nanny – Girl, at home in Liberia they bring you up like military,
but you talk too fast, fall in with urchins in the alley
playing kickball – you won’t read French.
You won’t fit.
Maybe your American sister will screw your head on straight.
She’s got that enlightened middle-class fever.
I review my list of what’s missing. I’ve got no Joe
clinging to my arm and sucking its miserable thumb.
“’One day she up and walked out,’
the neighbors said” – a story I read somewhere.
I fiddle around the root aisle, examine
Lilliputian beets and follow the scent of fruit,
finger grapes with no real aim.
Once I loved a man and his veins were rope.
His speckled eye was green. For him I went into the ground,
waited for light, grew solid and good for food.
“Consider a carrot’s death,” I say to the cashier
as I place my yellow purchase unbagged on the counter.
Maybe he speaks English, maybe not.
His face won’t tell me. “It’s snug in the dirt with its carrot comfort
till a screaming machine snatches it into the air.
From that moment it knows no peace.
It is stacked on a metal tray, tied down in a cold truck,
shipped to never, laid in a bin where it’s hosed
every five minutes. It takes months for it to die.”
On the lawn near the car lots, park service men
in their orange vests are mowing –
green scent, gas of vegetable screams.
“You’re a carnivore,” the cashier says to me evenly,
and with hardly any accent,
“if you feel that way about it.”
The End of Comedy
Early in the 20th century when novels
began to work out a bit differently,
lovers shrugged shoulders
and then perhaps borrowed a good car, got drunk
and headed down the coast for the races,
bad girls no longer leapt before trains or shot themselves
and the poor – here and there – began to think things over
and to come out rather well without the bother
of returning found wallets to kindly gentlemen of means,
was about the time we noticed
we missed something when we skipped the crucial second step
between brushing knees at the cockfight and banging in front of tv.
Oh, I am not saying there wasn’t always plenty
of song beneath the verse, or Mr. Darcy hadn’t better free his slaves,
but when we gave up
all that nonsense about dressing for dinner,
smacking one another in the teeth with feather pillows,
riding out with no saddles at midnight,
we saw all bets are on, anything can happen
and what happens most is endings,
endings upon endings we no longer have to explain.
We stopped apologizing,
but perhaps only began to feel sorry.
Now the Indian boy
with crooked teeth and water on his scull
is bullied by his teachers
and gets ditched like the rest of us.
Gangsters hire lobbyists and go legal.
Well, I know it’s all pretty hilarious,
but the factories are still dealing death.
We would not do for our friends this way.
It is May, and cold in Baltimore. I am eleven years old.
My mother has just given the toss to my savings of colorful M & Ms.
If it is not raining, I take my bike out and spend hours
high in the branches of the cherry tree at the Vanderbilt plantation down the road,
reading. The woods behind our house where I cut my own paths
through webs of sodden leaves,
playing Lewis and Clark, carrying both sides of their conversation,
is a half-mile green swath with a cut-through creek
between new white housing developments and an island grid
of black neighborhood with its own elementary school,
its own library, its own gas station.
One road leads into it, over a bridge I am not allowed to cross,
but a turn of handle bars carries me just a block or two
before I discover clustered flat-roof houses on a lattice of dead ends.
The creek wanders down hill to a shallow pool, stagnant in summer and stinking
of skunk cabbage, but, in May, I fill a mayonnaise jar with tadpoles.
The jar stands in the kitchen window and I hover there,
useless, until my mother shoos me outdoors, out of the way.
When slivers of tadpole tail
appear at the bubbled edges of the water,
she dumps the paddling, grayish mess into the yard,
never mind that futile, minute struggle of diminutive legs in the grass,
my ineffectual tears, the impossibility of rescue.
“The Stage as Battleground: Opera, Ballet and Gender Politics in the Age of Giselle,” Journal for the Colloquium on the Revolutionary Era, 2009-2010 edition, February 2013
Since the 1842 split of opera from ballet with the production of Giselle, audiences have observed a multi-faceted and successful revolution in the staging, design and aesthetics of story dance. In terms of the persistent theme of heterosexual politics, however, opera and dance continue to validate obvious and cumbersome stereotypes. In the 19th century, audiences attended the opera house in order to see two types of works, opera and ballet, which were not yet fundamentally different from one another. (more…)