Friday, March 19, 2010

Two Poems by Elizabeth Swados

"Strange Music"

Her music is strange
because the pen is a man’s pen
and her fingernails are polished red.

Her music sounds strange
because men in powdered wigs
clanged on harpsichord keys.
While she brushed over the inside strings
with colored feathers.

Her music sounds strange
because when her lovers left her
she didn’t suffer with a bow
over a bridge
in a corset and hooped skirt
but stretched a skin
over a hollowed log
and hit.

Her music sounds strange
because men pulled at symphonies
and cranked up their power
while she wandered the mysteries
listening for whispers.

If her music sounds strange,
it’s because the feminine ear
catches the catch, the breath
between word and word and
builds her violent screams by
collecting centuries of rage for
never being heard.

It is too real.

If her music sounds strange,
it’s because playing by ear
has that raw incendiary quality
that makes black heels tap flamenco,
that makes the keening and wailing at
dark seashores
during storms.
The sound of the voice now, free
once muzzled by a man’s hand
breathing, telling
centuries of stories.
Strange and real.



The shaking, the sleep
The shaking, the sleep
the not remembered dreams that have you waking up
like a pointer.
These days they say
they say cut down on the medicine
or add more
add this to that
we’re not really sure
they say we’re working on it
in laboratories, can I
lie down on a couch
in your laboratory, read
a mindless mystery about
a Midwestern serial killer
and wait?

If they can put a man on the moon
then why can’t they fix . . .
and blah, blah, blah
born too early,
then pop, drip, zoom tss
too late
in the glass tube

Too later for Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln and
brother Lincoln, too late for me
on the couch with the serial killer
pushes his next victim
off a bridge in Minnesota
The detective found a shoe.

Reckless reckless clouds
floating determinedly
like submarines,
I’m waiting to explode
or be radiated, I
am being eradicated,
rewired, recircuted.
Clues tacked to
the Police Sergeant’s wall
Parts of bodies. Bare locations.
This killer is smart
He leaves the paper ring
(of a cigar) on every victim’s middle finger.

New medicines, new caves emerge
A hand reaches down
gets burned, reaches down
Can’t reach
The serial killer pushes me.
I’m still falling.

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