Three Poems

Pre-teen Gymnasts Watch a TV Show
 on Child Beauty Pageants

[audio link]

Through the generous lens of the loved,
they do not recognize themselves
in the spangled babies, or see
their mothers in the women
with artificial hair and whiplash tongues.

Nevertheless, anything children repeat too often
for uncertain reasons—doing leg lifts or make-up,
putting on leopard print or tiger paws
becomes an obscene smile fixed as a button.
They think this is all they can do.

And because a circus becomes most alive
when the star loses balance and watchers’ mouths
open to the promise of a thud, a slide,
these little athletes already gossip
about the disappointments of others.

They replay injuries—wrists broken,
ambulance sirens dicing up the Floor music—
oblivious as those construction workers
eating peanut butter sandwiches
who dangled their legs over New York.


The Youngest Daughter

[audio link]

Then the youngest daughter said again, "I am sure all is not right."
~ The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Brothers Grimm

The good child, the youngest child, the one
who does the housework, gets up when she's told,
and doesn't look for favors. There are none
who wish her harm. She's gold dust, good as gold.

She does the housework, gets up when she's told,
and fashions clever figurines of clay.
Who'd wish her harm? She's gold dust, good as gold,
and golden-haired, a daughter of the day.

She fashions clever figurines of clay
because she notices what others don't.
She's golden-haired, a daughter of the day;
she sculpts them in the basement,  all alone.

Because she notices what others don't,
she fights her way through shadows; it is true
a sculptor in a basement, all alone,
is prone to cry some tears, as artists do—

they fight their way through shadows. It is true
the good child, the youngest child, the one
who's prone to cry some tears, as artists do,
will never look for favors. There are none.


Raising Becky

[audio link]

At three weeks you got colic, wouldn't sleep,
cried unless we held you. All those nights
were hell—you'd howl and rage—I'd rock and weep,
exhausted. I lost count of all the fights
about how having you was a mistake.
But now the problem is that you won't wake.

You do have an alarm clock, and it's set
at eardrum-splitting volume. Every morning
it blares until I switch it off. You let
me shake you, shine a flashlight without warning
over your eyelids. It's frustrating, daughter,
the only thing that wakes you is cold water

and you hate that, and I hate doing stuff
that seems so cruel, and anyway you say
on principle, because you're pretty tough,
you won't get up if I waken you that way.
Your High School bus comes every day at seven,
but you won't go to bed before eleven.

You always ask me if I'm mad at you.
I'm not, or not that mad. There are far worse
things a girl could do. We will get through
your teens, which like the colic, aren't a curse.
You were a gorgeous baby, and will make
a lovely woman, sleeping and awake.

—Anna Evans, Hainesport, NJ