Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuesday Poem, Unaccountably, walking

Unaccountably, walking

past a portly museum guard,
up wide steps, noticing a small, polished penis
(uncircumcised) on a glistening white marble statue,
I am transported, a wood table with attached benches,
seated opposite Bobbie, shriveled, gray,
knit cap pulled over wisps, stubble
mustache, faded flannel and soiled pea coat.

If she talked, she said, "I was a kid. Alone
in the wagon. Waiting for my uncle. The horse shied.
The cart tipped. All the fruit spilled."
Sometimes she shifted a word here, Watertown
or market, added an angry father there, but the gist was
being alone, a child, the fruit spilling.
"It was not my fault."

Bend forward, shuffling a worn deck, laying the seven-card
solitaire pyramid, she muttered softly.
But if the Queen of Hearts appeared in that first dealing,
the set-up of the game, she began a loud,
uncontrollable incantation against the one, the evil one,
who laid a curse on her.

Every evening Bobbie accepted a bar of soap, folded towel
and the striped pajamas
shelter staff kept especially for her. Undressing behind
curtains, no one saw her wizened form, sagging
breasts, dark nipples, shriveled penis, dried sack.

Nothing about the gleaming Bacchus, carved in 1863
by William Witmore Storey, American,
should have reminded me of the old Armenian,
homeless hermaphrodite.

In a month or two, this should be published in a chapbook, "Magritte's Rider," by

For more than twelve years, while I was teaching, my relaxation was working the occasional 3-11 shift in the woman's unit of a local shelter. It was a remarkable experience for which I was very grateful. Now my relaxation is going to the backside of the racetrack which gives me remarkable stories for which I am very grateful.

I apologize profusely for not having kept up my end of the blog-bargain, but hopefully I'm back to doing that, looking forward to reading all the poems and my usual cast of blog-character's entries.


  1. A wonderful, strong poem - loved reading about Bobbie's story. Love the way you have worked with images and facts, describing raw details and sympathetic truths - without any distracting sentimentality - for full impact. Thank you.

  2. You've transported me, too.

    William Wetmore Story did a penis! Go know. But then those expat Yankees did all sorts of things . . .

    Thanks to you, I see Bobbie.

  3. So sad, Melissa - the poem makes me feel so sad -

    Funny, my daughter dances next door to the night shelter in town and I was thinking while she was in there I should go in and offer to help cook dinner at the shelter rather than write my novel outside ... maybe I will now. Thank you.

  4. Now it's my turn to be unaccountably transported Melissa. Your poem has stirred a whole lot of my senses; I feel like I've had an encounter. Thanks for your posting.

  5. You know, there's always poetry that eschews the traditional path (whatever that might be) and speaks to and from the heart. Your poem did just that. It was more than a poem, it was an elegant declaration of the right to be seen as a human being. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  6. this is one of my favorites; lucky Bobbie, to have you gathering her in...

  7. A remarkable (life) story, indeed. I'm rendered speechless. So I'll just say ditto to the well-said comments above, especially Kay's mention of "describing raw details and sympathetic truths - without any distracting sentimentality" and the insightful remark by A Cuban in London about "the right to be seen as a human being."

    You've rocked my world, Melissa. With symbolic lines re: "the fruit spilling" and "the seven-card
    solitaire pyramid", you certainly did.

  8. I add my appreciation and admiration to these other voices, Melissa.

    What a respectful, loving tribute this is. You to Bobby - and a way, Bobby to you; one brave and tender soul to another.

    Thank you.

  9. thank you very much for your generous readings....
    I appreciate it...