July 17, 2006

Two older poems


“But it should be quite a sight
the going under of the evening land...
And I can tell you my young friend,
it is evening. It is very late.”
Walker Percy “The Moviegoer”

Late in the afternoon
the older folk gather on the porch
to drink and talk
until the sun goes down
until fireflies deck the evening
with their ephemeral jewels
and cicadas scream in the long grass.
The children play and shout from tree forts
and hidden places behind the house.
Teenagers swim, naked, together,
and neck, not-quite-making-love
in the tall reeds by the river. At this hour
evening land is something no one speaks of.

I am twelve, not quite a teenager
and fearful of becoming one
not quite a child.
I sit inside alone
and loaf my way through the summer night
glancing through photograph albums.

They are all there, the older folk,
but younger, unreal in their unlined faces
their trim, youthful, curiously hopeful bodies.
There is one photo of my mother
holding a dripping ice cream cone at the beach.
My father, who must have taken the picture,
is laughing at her or so I imagine
for the picture is tilted slightly
as if he shakes with mirth
while capturing the moment.
A finger has been caught on the lens,
a dark blur on the side.
My mother looks so young, so -- and I admit
this without seeing it in her now --
so very beautiful. Her belly bulges
under her bathing suit: me.

There is an old Zen koan that asks:
What is your face, your true face,
before your parents gave birth to you?
And this is my question even now
as I gaze at her stomach, that sweet swelling,
and see myself as yet unborn.
I wonder if she wants me
in the picture -- me, a girl --
or is she hoping
for her first son?

The adults are quiet now.
Ice settles in someone’s glass, its clink comforting.
Even the children are no longer shouting
from fortress to fort, and the teenagers
are long departed to their netherworld of dance
and electric music downtown.

It is evening land all over the house.
The old clock on the wall ticks time away.
It is very late and all that is left is the going under


and autumn throws its frail bones about the house
and the phone is silent all day.
This poem breaks out of nowhere
under the feeble old torture
of water drip dripping without rhythm,
without pattern, into a stained aluminum turkey pan
that has seen better days and all of them holidays.

I imagine callers, visitors, wrong numbers
struck into conversation
by husky male voices, men who must be
beautiful they are so welcome.
I tell them I am a poet.
I do not tell them I write only when lonly
or when the rotten ice drips softly into a pan.
I tell them all the secrets I’ve been sworn to
and I tell them jokes
just to hear the fine solid sound
of their laughter. I tell them my name
is Mabel Fitzwillow or Phoebe Sparrow.
I am, of course, too old for them
but they need not know it.
When I’m in a good mood I tell them
my aunt was Sarah Bernhardt,
that I, too, am a famous actress
when in fact both my legs are wood
and I have a terrible memory.
I do not recall everything they tell me.
Their stories vary and are not all pleasant.
But once I talked for two hours
with a man whose lover was his own sister.
His voice was sweet, gentle. He told me
he loved his sister more than any other
woman he’d ever met. When we said good-bye
he asked if he might call again -- he had
the number -- might meet, buy me coffee downtown
or take me to lunch at noon.

No -- the truth is that no one calls, no one
visits. All day long the ice melts into the turkey pan.
I write lonely poems of the worst sort
and set each one ablaze on the stove.
By nightfall the ice is gone, the pan full of frost-bitter water.
Carefully I drain it into the sink.
The pan is cold, flocked with bits of ice
and dead insects. I wipe away the grime,
dry all surfaces, then turn the power on once more
and close the door.

(my first published poem)

Posted by pamwagg at July 17, 2006 01:44 PM


Evening Land. Beautiful poem, Pam. It brought back all the best memories of my childhood. Your line "Ice settles in someone's glass. It's clink comforting." I remember this; falling asleep feeling secure that my parents were up, with their friends, and all was well.
I hope you are well. Please post if you can. I came across a note I made... "if you always do what you've always done, you always get what you always got.--Bushwacking." It says "from Divided Minds", so I assume it's from your sister.
Great advice. Keep fighting for your beautiful mind.

Posted by: Pat at August 11, 2006 04:08 AM

I enjoyed reading your poems. Please post more, if you feel up to it. It's been a while since you posted. How are you doing?

Posted by: ky perraun at August 4, 2006 05:19 PM

My dear Phoebe,
It is this part of you,your gift for turning me deeply inward, searching for some part of myself that might contain even a shadow of your gift,that has made me realize that I search in vain. The loneliness that you capture so strikingly in the second poem descends upon me as well, just as you hoped would be the reaction of your readers. We feel what you feel. As always, I also feel so empoverished of skill and intellect when I dare to compare my banal attempts at writing to yours. I know that your goal in writing poetry is not to make others feel inferior. The very thought is ridiculous. My feeling the way I do is my problem. Perhaps rather than sounding so negative, I should rephrase my reaction by saying that you inspire me to reach down into myself and find whatever gift it is that I have. I believe that everyone has a talent. The challenge is to find and perfect it as you have done.
My admiration never stops growing,
Your biggest fan,Persephone(aka Paula)

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at July 20, 2006 01:03 PM

Dear Pam,

You write about writing poetry when you're feeling lonely. I know this is an older poem you wrote earlier in your writing career.

I don't know about your living environment, whether you're lonely or not, but if you are, have you thought about adopting a little dog or cat? I know my dog and cats are such good companions for me. My cats especially make me laugh. Sometimes they do such funny things.

When my husband leaves for one of his fishing trips it's comforting to know that I have at least 3 cats that sleep in my bed. Also, when I wake up in the middle of the night I know I have my animals in the house. The animals also gives me a routine in the morning. They don't let me sleep late because all of them are jumping on my bed as if to say ... FEED ME, FEED ME!!!!


Posted by: yaya at July 18, 2006 03:35 PM

WOW. I love them.

Posted by: Samantha at July 17, 2006 06:13 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?