Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Here is a poem I wrote years ago when I was on a fellowship as a "younger poet" at the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. It's not a very good poem. While I was at Bucknell, I realized that my thoughts probably lend themselves better to prose than to poetry, and I've written very few poems since. But, I was recently reminded of it and pulled it out of an old file.


Megan got in line behind the Amish family
at Wal-Mart so she could see
what they would buy, “It was fishhooks, toilet paper
and lots and lots of lightbulbs. I looked.”
We puzzled over lightbulbs. “Maybe
they are for a chicken incubator,” I said,
saw the two girls in their sunbonnets
like me at seven in my homemade dress
and long braid. The women in halter tops
stared at mother’s hair bun and smiled.

In the car, I confessed,
“My grandparents are Holiness
which is like Mennonite in dress except
for the head covering.”

“Holiness,” said Jessie, tapping cigarette,
“What a pretty name for a religion.”

I tried to list reasons, spoke like an anthropologist
explaining belief.

Once in Wednesday night prayer meeting
I knelt on hardwood, face pressed into pew.
I tried not to squirm, felt guilty
about not shouting “Hallelujah!” or answering alter calls.
When I was nine, I wrote
“Never drink beer, whiskey or wine
or great is your judgment in heaven divine.”

Memaw told me, “We aren’t religious. We’re Christian.”
He brought me out of the deep miry clay
He put my feet on the solid rock to stay.

That night we read poetry and drank chardonnay.
In an old journal, I found a letter from myself at eleven
to twenty-one. “Is your hair still long?
Please remember you’re a Christian. Don’t backslide.”
I sat on my bed in shorts, looked out the window
at the spider I had left
to spin her beautiful web.

A bird cry faded as it flew away.
Outside the door, my roommates spoke of the Amish.

1 comment:

Mike Blyth said...

Well, Carmen, I don't know anything about judging poetry, but this one evokes in me a lot of images and feelings in a way that prose probably wouldn't. Makes me ponder the mystery of who we are and how we're connected with who we were. So, I hope to read more of your poetry in the future.