Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mrs. Dickinson Waits in the Car

Dawn Potter

My Mother does not care for thought—
                                    Emily Dickinson

A few meager stars, a hazy moon
brighter than old Kentuck,
and a bulge of frost spooned
across the windshield like a plucked,

flash-frozen chick. Into this arctic
chariot, the heater chafes and spouts
its idiot vows. Yes, I lied about Kentuck.
No doubt, it’s glowing like all get-out,

like a pair of gibbous moons, like molten
honey dripped into a summer lake.
Blame art, then: I’ve been soaking up Bolton’s
poems, and now I’m acting like a fake

southerner, which is to say gothically
depressed while making love to every rum-
soaked predicate I meet. Treat gothically
as a ringer for New England numb.

Today a friendly rube lauded my skill
at prosy contemplation, but what a crock.
Call a heart a spade: call me a fading, moody kill-
joy with a romance eye for loss and schlock.

The car fan chatters hopelessly; newsmen
chant wind-chill rates and hockey stats.
Like any hausfrau I fret over loaves in the oven,
socks on the line, carboys of milk, and ruinous vats

of soup. There they burn or boil.
Here I dally in this wrapper-strewn capsule,
this (laugh with me!) bell jar. Can I stand loyal
to her, cruel queen of diction, and also rule

my roost, my squat piratical outpost?
I shiver; I prop my tome of poems
against the cruiser’s plastic wheel. I boast
that they age for me: these jeroboams

of syntax, these sherry cups of rage.
Yet these tired hands; yet these cold feet.
Go ahead: remind me to shut up, to flip the page,
to change the station, to bleat

            of Mother’s lonely vigil.
I’m not proud of my idle arrogance.
Meanwhile, the rye loaf chars and the milk spills.
            They’re out of my ken, for a hatful of minutes.

                        Let me claim to be oracular.
“Poetry is not like reasoning,” urges Shelley.
And I reply: “nothing in particular”
            is the maiden speech of every tragedy.

[forthcoming in Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]


Carlene said...

Holy smokes.
I love this poem.

Dawn Potter said...

Do you really? It's been rejected a whole lotta times. I finally decided to give up and post it here. I was beginning to think I'd made a mistake about it.

Anonymous said...

OMG, the juxtaposition of the erudite and the mundane results in a tension that is masterful.

I want to grow up to write this well.

You are not wrong. I'm even duly impressed with the line spacing.

In short (too late) WOW.

Dawn Potter said...

I must say I'm slightly stunned. I mean, I have a fondness for this poem but until today it has shown no signs of interesting any other reader on earth.

I got lucky with you two--

Thank you very much.