Tropics S
0°-23.5°S

This now is yours. I seek another place.
                                       Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

Your father’s dead.

Her voice cracked over the deep-sea cable.

Continental shelves were discovered in the laying of.
 
Tectonic plates.


Colliding: cobalt blue.

American cars so fat, obese the houses, highways, headstones.

Go back, your father would have wanted.

Three days, violent, violet thunder storms.

Hole in the known world burning between my feet.

                                                  °

Freddie liked patent leather mary janes, he said you could see
the girls’ white panties in.

        Soon they arrived at Bluebeard’s castle.

        It was not gleaming like Judith’s father’s castle.

Echoes remind me of the weight of concrete.

                                                  °

Raining again, wet and running window panes.

The Amazon holds one-tenth the world’s water.

Upstairs something was wrong with my brother.

Something to do with horses (I thought).


                                                  °

In the night all alone I set fire to the bedclothes.

In the night I made stink bombs and cow pies, I made the boys
drink green milk, eat rhubarb, I made them jump from a ten-foot
high wall into five feet of mud, into quicksand, duck soup.

I made my one brother kiss me on the mouth.

I made my other brother dye his hair blue.

I blew down his trestle of cards that curved from the top of the
spiral stairs through all the bedrooms but mine, I refused to.

It was longer than anybody could have built except my brother.

I bet you’re sorry.

Am not.


When I tied people up, I beat them to a pulp. They all turned
out to have blue hair and dimples.

I learned to close only one eye the way he could. I learned
after months of holding my right brow down, to lift the left one
only, so it would arch.


Will you please tell my sister to stop wearing my good shirts.


They tied me up, killed the rancher my father, rode off into the
sunset, some other map, white spaces.

Leaving me at the cabin door.

You’re a good crier.

                                                  °

Freddie said, you’re the most selfish person I ever met.

Then he married me.


                                                  °

       Judith said she wouldn’t leave even if he threw her out.

       She swore she would lie down on his doorstep.


                                                  °

My mother said there’s a point beyond which.

As with temper or glare and would such a person ever come back.

I slapped Freddie in the face.

Or passion. Who started it.

I came up out of a blackout, his hands around my neck,
squeezing.

It feels that good.

I didn’t marry you because you could cook.

                                                  °

Projection being the essence of art.

A sphere being a sphere, irreducible to the flat white world of
paper.

                                                  °

My knees being weak. His whispering being all the old love
songs in my ear.

Nobody ever called me baby before Freddie.

       …green berries, red berries; grey and blue stones;
        fruits of many colors; red flower; yellow leaves;
       white eggshells; blue plastic toys; Kodak film boxes.

Freddie the bower bird.


In the blacked-out hotel room we woke the first morning facing
each other in our tangled nest.

That face with arched brows, flushed cheeks, the good mouth.

Freddie opened his great brown eyes, he looked at me.

I looked at him looking at me looking.

No difference, no daylight between.

                                                  °

ALAMAGORDO. Flash more brilliant than a hundred suns, a  rainbow-colored cloud 40,000 feet high.

Only a crater remains where a steel tower. Three miles away a mountain range in the searing light.

Blind girl riding with her parents in the family car. What was that?

Then came the thundering roar and blast of air that knocked two men down standing five miles away.

Men who had dedicated their lives to the secret. It worked! It worked!

Nobody could know beforehand. Afterwards, nobody could not.

 

When I die, it will be Freddie who comes.

Out of the blue flash, out of the glare.

        Judith insisted on having the key. She wanted to see
        behind every door.

        Because (she said) she loved him.

        Unhappy Bluebeard.

        All his secrets.

                                                  °

It wasn’t the first time: open marriage like a wound.

Victoria Amazonica’s white, female lily pad flower closes at
dusk, trapping beetles. By morning, the flower, now pink, now
male, releases the beetles sticky with pollen to fly to the next
white irresistible blossom.

Open marriage like a door.

                                                  °

The River of Doubt has many rapids.

The River of Doubt cannot be run.

                                                  °

Have an affair with him, dear, but don’t marry him.

But, Mother, he’s already married.

Nevertheless.

Penises so small, so ugly, heart rendering (my father used to say).

(Though not about penises.)

Smell of a man’s spent sex like lead pencil shavings.

                                                  °

         Open, open!

                                                  °

Wearing a wet bathing suit, that’s how FDR got it.

My brother might have been invalidated for life.

                                                  °

Freddie said he thought he was in love with me. I loved
Freddie, he was never 100% sure.

         The door opened on a beautiful garden.

         The castle was filled with light and air.

         Bluebeard begged Judith to be content.

                                                  °

All maps being distortions.

If you know how fast a particle is moving, you cannot know where
it is. Exactly.

Your father’s dead.

Imagined places discovered not to exist (again) are displaced to
parts of the map not yet.

Again and again.

                                                  °

Your brains is in your cocks and your cocks beeps like radar.

You pants like lap dogs wherever they wags: Susan Sally Rita
Pita.


Meantime we sits here and watches you plays footsies with Fifi
like you used to do with mi-mi-mi-mi-mi.

Watches you punches Prunella in her a cappella.

Watches you fondles Harriet Iscariot.

Watches Lucy goes liquid for you to drinks while you smiles all
the whiles at Svetlana, that sluts.

Stay away from him, I tells her, you blonde bitch.

You don’ts own him, she yell back.

                                                  °

Freddie thought infinitesimal meant infinite, only more so.

I’m your father.

So what, I’m your mother.

                                                  °

Joined an expedition. Got drunk every night, slept with a man
who said I dig bones.

Made very bad drawings of old fire pits. Shook dust through a
sieve.

Bathed in a sulfur spring, smelled like hell. Stayed out all
day naked in the desert sun.

Walked the hills, found nothing.

Rocks (I thought): Scotch on the, marriage on the. Is there
some connection?


           A white lake.

What is it, asked Judith.

It is a lake of tears.


                                                  °

My one brother fell off his bike, I ran to help.

It wasn’t that I was hurt so much as where.

All I wanted to do was let me see.


My other brother asked me to show him my breasts.

I pulled down the straps.

They were little pink pebbles at the blue waterline.

He looked, he said nothing, he swam away.


          Bluebeard begged Judith to stop.

But the last key would tell her everything.


                                                  °

I was so drunk.

Jade dripping from my ears, between my breasts, blood between my
legs.

In the white gown, in the plush casino, words gushing up from
who knows where, when he turned around in the glare.

Out of the minutes, out of the degrees.

I was so drunk, when he slapped I didn’t cry, I didn’t turn on
my heel and walk.

Somewhere a door slammed.
 

I felt the belt in my hand, his soft skin.

I wanted to slap him and slap him and slap.

Him and my one brother and my other brother and my mother and my father and would such a person ever come back.

The point beyond which. Beyond it. To the end(s).


I was crouching above him, his mouth between my legs, he wanted
me to and I did. He closed his eyes against the sting.

He opened his mouth as wide but he couldn’t, not wide enough, I
thought he was going to drown, but he didn’t.

It ran down his cheeks and into his hair, around his neck onto
the carpet, the towel I wished we had put underneath us, how
would we get it out.

What will the housekeeper say when she sees it, what does she
make of the sheets.


I was so drunk. His hands at my throat. I knew I had to come
out of that blackout, or.

                                                  °

His pretty cock covered with crosses and pinwheels, blue steel
clamped to that skin like studs in leather.

I mean in there.

That’s from the syphilis, said Freddie.


There are no landmarks in this country.


                                                  °

I came home from three weeks in the semi-arid desert.

Turn off the T.V., Freddie, I want to talk to you.

Drew crude maps of fire pit dust. Sifted sides of mountains
through a standing sieve. Painted little numbers on dozens of
arrowheads. Learned to call them points.

I’m leaving.

Learned to recognize obsidian that had been worked.
Surveyed the mountains. Drank bad wine. Fell into beds.

I’m leaving.

Watched a man kill a rattlesnake with a stick. Burned the skin
all over my body. Ate bad mayonnaise left out overnight.

The little oblong pit in Freddie’s freckled back.

I’m leaving.

My mother said, If I were twenty years younger, I’d have married
him myself.


Oh, the sharp living fragrance of sagebrush after rain.

Falling in love with the ugly scrub desert.

I’m leaving.

Your father’s dead.


         Now it will be night.

 


 

Notes

This now is yours...“Bluebeard,” Selected Poems.

Soon they arrived...passages throughout adapted from Bela Bartok, “Bluebeard’s Castle.”

...green berries...American Museum of Natural History: 125 Years of Expedition and Discovery.

Alamagordo...adapted from New York Times, August 7, 1945.

 



Laurel Blossom’s most recent book of poetry is Vanishing Point: New and Selected Poems (Ridgeway Press, 2004). Earlier books include The Papers Said, What’s Wrong, and Any Minute. Her work has appeared in a number of anthologies, and in national journals including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and The Paris Review, among others. She has recently completed a book-length poem, Degrees of Latitude, exploring the geography of a woman’s life. She serves on the editorial board of Heliotrope: a journal of poetry. Blossom has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, and Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, where she serves on the Board of Regents. She co-founded the esteemed writing residency and workshop program The Writers Community, and now serves as chair of the Writers Community Committee of the YMCA National Writer’s Voice. She recently moved to rural South Carolina.


I was at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 1989 when these poems were born; as a result of my fellowship at ACA, I began a daily journal, which I kept for two years thereafter. That was the beginning of the long and tortuous evolution in form and content of a book called Degrees of Latitude, of which these three poems form sections.

Then one day, a few years later, I turned 50. I gave myself an adventure, to prove I wasn’t going to die: I went to the North Pole! Standing on the vast ice stretching as far as the eye could see, I realized to my surprise that I had come to the top of the world not to defy death, but to find my life; not just to get to the ends of the earth, but to find my home. I was drawing a map of myself, my identity. I wanted to know where I ended and the world began.

 

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