The thought of Zelda Fitzgerald
dancing herself to death-by-fire
on the top floor of an insane asylum
gives me pause in the presence
of fire always, with fear attending.
Once scorched, any one of us thinks
twice about where the extinguisher is;
then memorizes, “In case of fire …”
before putting on dancing shoes.
You have tasted poetry with a silver spoon
but have never been consumed yourself
by the need and will to write first and then
to attend the rest––cleaning, harvesting,
volunteering––seeking the infamous balance.
No. Seek un-balance. Allow the scale’s
weight to drop heavy on the side of writing
not making allowance for all else
but saving pride of place for poetry
ever first in the Muse’s intent for you.
Someone is in the house. Uninvited.
Not feeling threatened, but uncomfortable
and needing to know who it is because
a young child, full of trust, as children are
is busy in all the rooms of the house
and could easily be discovered
by someone else.
You! What are you doing here?
Why didn’t you leave when the party was over?
This is not your home.
Your quick smile, your red shirt, your evasive
eyes, your glossy attempts to explain
your presence. Your resistance to leaving––
more than that––your insistence on staying
is as clear as your dancing feet that tap
into room after room as I follow you,
with a broom meant for cleaning.
In Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth,
the protagonist and his wife have had a child,
a much desired son. They walk along
talking excitedly about their beautiful boy.
Suddenly, fearfully they realize what
they are doing. The mother tucks
the baby out of sight, and together
she and her husband lament
the misshapen, unfortunate child,
hoping to deflect the gods’
vengeance and not to tempt foul fate.
A partridge setting on a nest
with chicks warm beneath her wing.
would understand. With danger near
she would cry out and feign wounded
wing, ‘round and around she’d run
to distract a predator from discovering
and destroying her chicks.
My mother too a fatalist, a strategist
and dealmaker with the gods, when
approaching a stop light that shone green
would begin her litany of denial: It’ll never last.
It’ll be red by the time we get there.
You’ll see. Eureka. The light still green
on our arrival, she’d drive on through
the intersection shaking her head
with a small victory chuckle. Either way
she won. She’d be right or she’d be happy
to take what the gods had offered that day,
more than enough for her.
We all know the snow is coming
forthwith, when we will hunker down
in cave, in house, in cold cellar.
Like dried hydrangeas and goldenrod,
all in our rooms, we’ll await the spring,
when re-seeded with life, we’ll emerge
into the fervent light.