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Although they are not well known, here are two women poets with comparable insights whom I like very much:

             

LEAVING AND STAYING, IN THE THIRTIES

If the one who became my father
had walked away from the farm
(followed through on the Merchant Marine)
                        and if the one
who became his wife had instead
eloped with her flying instructor---
thrown off her hostess gown, clamped on her goggles,
to zoom over, to look down and wave
to abandoned tearoom customers
gaping up from wicker chairs on green lawns---

Of if the one who was already your mother
            had believed (trusted) her relatives and stayed on,
not turned her back on all of them,
continued to push your pram along  Vienna's promenades---
never loading you and your diapers
onto that Rotterdam freighter,
keeping you silent
with slabs of chocolate---

Who instead of us would be here now
throwing dice
realigning Scrabble tiles
reflecting on randomness?

by Elizabeth Stoessl


 

SHE THREATENED

more than once
to wring our necks.
We knew
that she knew how.

She practiced on the chickens---
she'd pick one white one
from the pen behind the snowfence
next to the swings
my father built

snap its neck
with a lariat-swing
around her head

lay it on the stump
and chop
with the blue-handled axe

tie it to the clothesline
feet crossed
upside-down.

Blood dried
on the stump
as it twisted
twitched
and stilled.

Later, while she scorched
the pinfeathers over the gas flame
my sister
climbed onto the stump
and practiced
her tap-dance routine.

I watched her from the swing
fingering my throat.


by Elizabeth Stoessl


 

CRAZY MILDRED

Memory throws shadows on sidewalks where she trudged
and dragged her squealing rusted wagon.
Just how much cruelty did she endure?
We heard she saw her mother burn to death.

She dragged that squealing rusted wagon,
packed with faded greeting cards she peddled to our mothers.
(We heard she saw her mother burn to death.)
She lurks forever at the margins of our childhoods.

With faded greeting cards she peddled to our mothers
and things in mystery sacks we weren't allowed to see,
she lurks forever at the margins of our childhoods.
Her wrinkled cotton stockings drooped toward the ground.

Things in mystery sacks we weren't allowed to see.
The musty woolen coat she wore year-round,
wrinkled cotton stockings drooped toward the ground.
She'd grin, then scowl, then mutter--- we would run.

The musty woolen coat she wore year-round,
grey rheumy eyes made huge by bottleglass.
She'd grin, then scowl, then mutter--- we would run.
Did anyone ever invite her in?

Grey rheumy eyes made huge by bottleglass,
just how much cruelty did she endure?
Did anyone ever invite her in?
Memory throws shadows on sidewalks where she trudged.


by Elizabeth Stoessl



 

(a child's view of adult alcoholism)

I will be by your side if you need me night and day,
I will be the one that wrecks your family life, is that okay?
I will swerve and curve your emotions and cause you to trash your car in the street
I will make you say things that you'll soon regret and like a drum on your children you shall continuously beat,
I'll make you appear unattractive, and slowly cause you to lose the ability to constructively think,
I am that cheap, 80-proof bottle of poison that you so willingly drink,
I thought that you were a genie when I was a child because of your ability to stay in a bottle,
And I can say or do anything that I want to you because you won't remember this tomorrow


An Inner City Tale(Ode to Cabrini Green)

Born into a tenement in the heart of the windy city in the summer of sixty-nine,
Fourth small mouth to be fed and second girl in line,
A time just after the ‘68 Olympic Games, when black fists were raised in unison,
After the assassinations of Malcolm, Medgar, JFK, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,
A time when proclamations like “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” were the in thing.
When bell-bottomed jeans and afros swayed effortlessly against the wind,
An era when Motown was king and Stax was in!
Our guardians were diligent and always instilled in all of us the need to get ahead
Stressing that there is strength in numbers and to stick together no matter what was said,
‘70s, school bells, limited teaching apparatuses, burned out teachers and no recess,
Escaping boredom, through reading biographies always held my interest.
Benefitting from RIF (Reading is Fundamental) reading Angelou, Hansberry, Morrison, Moody, X and Cruz.
Discovering and rediscovering, Richard Wright, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.
Brown, scarred knees from repeatedly falling upon thick blacktop.
Corner stores, liquor stores, icecream, pickles, Now-n-laters, barber and beauty shops
Loud sounds blaring to break through red, glistening project walls,
Aretha, Chaka Diana, O’Jays, GQ, Jacksons, Marvin Gaye and Lou Rawls.
Broken elevators, and broken dreams, straightening combs, and fade creams.
Mayoral candidates making mockeries out of project residents by handing out
V-necks, turkeys, and miniature Christmas trees in exchange for votes.
Some project residents coming undone and always at each others throats.
Skateboards, hopscotch, jump rope, Red Light Green Light and Mother May I?
Young men masquerading as gangsters on street corner over already-conquered city turf, why?
Soon childhood laughter is silenced by gunshots and young bodies dropping,
Caskets, tears, sensing my own mortality at 13, anticipating my own heart stopping.
Guardians’ tenacity paid off in the spring of ‘83 they rescued me,
Before our transition out of the ghetto, I noticed young women making spaces in their bellies for little ones, completely throwing caution to the wind,
Yeah, babies having babies starting the cycle all over again...

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