II. Talitha koum, Little Girl, Get Up


Like a dog digging, ignorant

of that for which it digs, but smelling

something––go after it. Find it out,

dirt flying up on either side

claws tearing through rock and gravel

in a whimpering ecstasy known by dogs,

an eagerness driven by sheer not-knowing

like digging potatoes in the harvest garden

––how many, how big, the excitement builds––

like that. Like presents under the tree

and a child tearing in a fever

of getting more, more––that’s how it is

with this going back to the central core

unnamed, uncolonized.

First, divest.

Get naked and dig. You are what you are,

whatever that is. Displace the layers

of paint and dirt, back to elementary

matter, the core as I’ve called it

above. Below, at center, it is to consume

the seeds––supposedly poison. Pay no attention.

It’s only the apple of God. You’ve already eaten

in to the core. Might as well eat the seeds

and see what happens.


I’m about the business of learning Finnish
tricking out my mother’s life by tens
of letters in single words: k’s, n’s, omnipresent
o’s struggle with my western speech for dominance.

I fall back to lullaby then
meet with resistance at the early hour
of Anglicization, acculturation
in a neighborhood where a different majority ruled.

In my majority I choose her language
and feel the gates of the sluiceway lift
when I dive down
in a rush of syllables, trusting when I surface

again, I’ll surface in Finland,
my keel, my rudder,
my compass––my mother tongue.
*Finnish for mother tongue

Unless you become like a little child…

Pricked with the point of a safety pin

my index finger dripped blood

on the index of my life’s book:

If you don’t destroy the world, I will give you my life.

Nine years old, I signed the note

in blood, buried it in a woodsy glade

where it rotted into the earth

with root and maggot.

Now at the other end of life

I look out on a May-green field

bordered by ash and wild cherry,

burgeoning lilac, poised to bloom.

The world blooms.

You’ve kept your side of the bargain.

I’ve kept mine too, amazed to find

that giving over a life is life, not self-denial

fulfillment of a kind all unexpected.

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