My face was in my hands
not in prayer, but in my hands
my face peeled of skin
by volcanic burst of water boiling up
from a pressure canner that lacked one handle.
The hum of the water didn’t sound right
for the simple hot-water bath the recipe
called for. Too hot? Too late. The lid blew off
when the seal was opened and a geyser of burning
broke over my face, across my chest
and down my arm, my mouth an astonished O!
All in a moment, my face was in my hands
and saving face took on a different meaning.
I was a being of flesh and not of wood,
but that changed in a moment
when I Daphne fled from Apollo’s grasp.
I called to my father, the river god,
Help me, Father! Help me! No sooner
had the plea crossed my lips than
what had been foot became root
of laurel tree, fingers webbed into branches
leafing out to a startled Apollo.
When I Daphne, as fairest maiden, was lost
to him, the laurel became his own tree
whose leaves crowned athletes in games
dedicated to the amorous god whose sighs
and lamentations were hushed by the wind
that blew through the leaves of the laurel tree.
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.
The plywood hammered into place
over plate glass windows.
Survival kits of band-aids, flashlights
sandbags at the reaches of the tide.
It’s a monster, they say, the coming
hurricane, christened Florence––
a name for a friendly waitress,
a name that might tame some of its power.
At the hurricane center, who names
has power. (Remember Adam
walking in Eden, naming, naming …)
Forecasters hang their hats on
multiple fictions. Powerless before
Nature, what else can they do but hope?
On this day of destruction, the Word comes down
as bodies came down through the sacred air
as the towers themselves came down in fire and dust
choking those running away in donated sneakers
those running barefoot to Brooklyn, to Bedford Stuy
running, running away to the future, to this anniversary
when we remember the runners, the jumpers
the hostages on the planes; the lovers of fire
who commandeered those planes, those misguided
ones who worshiped death. But a new altar arises
today, when the Word comes down as life, new life
these 17 years gone; new life in the womb
of the present moment. New life that is breath
for those in New York and beyond.
Judith Robbins will read from her second collection of poems, The Bookbinder’s Wife, on Sunday, May 27 at 1 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Augusta.
The Bookbinder’s Wife will be available, as will be her first collection, The North End. There will be time for discussion during and after the reading.
On Sunday, March 18, 2018, Judith Robbins will join poets Claire Hersom and Susann Pelletier for a reading of their poems and conversation about poetry in their lives.
This event, dubbed “Blue Collar Daughters,” is the first in a monthly series of community poetry and conversations sponsored by L/A Arts.The event will take place between 2 and 4 p.m. in the L/A Arts Gallery, 221 Lisbon St., Lewiston.
A donation of $4 is suggested, and there will be light fare offered. The poets’ books will be available for sale.