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Bernadette

joan-didion

My second oldest daughter, looking like
A wide-eyed pubescent Joan Didion,
Might stare for a minute or two and take
Her measure in a mirror, not in vain

But, fearing any other referent,
To wait and see if mind can correspond
With will, observe the fierce intransigent
Expression staring back, and note the bland

Details parading back and forth behind
Her thoughts – Homer’s catalog of ships
Revised as fashion plates and redefined
As strutting models where flashbulbs eclipse

The Aegean dawn igniting in her eyes…
So candid-cool, so psychological,
Her pert reserve, a warning to the wise –
She’s pretty, sane, sixteen, no sort of fool:

One hand, its fingers splayed (sans cigarette)
In limp salute, the other curls around
Her girlish hips. She cocks her head to set
Her ear a few degrees beyond each sound

It detonates: a rapt applause confused
With surf’s tumult – the torch song’s eclipse
Of battle armor rattling in the dust –
The singing rigging of a thousand ships.

Comments

  1. Big Jon Bully says:

    Great, thanks.

  2. You captured her ferocity perfectly….

  3. Quin Finnegan says:

    Nice work, Mr JOB, as always … I especially like the lines re: double meaning of catalog, am flailing a bit with the word “psychological” (though I like that as well), and … that is one helluva a picture.

    • I don’t know if I can help with “psychological” – other than to say that’s always been part of Bernadette’s character. She’s a Percy character, or a Dostoevsky character, or a Dickens character in that way, I guess.

      Here’s another, older poem where she shows up – yes, I stole with impunity from myself:

      How My Children See Me

      I wonder this like a coin or playing card standing up on its edge.
      Darkness draws near as my wonder wades the shallows of sleep. Its current
      Carries me from my barren bedroom over night, into its deepest

      Regions, where I am too far out to recall bumped furniture’s sudden
      Sharp report across the floor, or a soft whimper that expresses
      Tired and cold – after the woodstove dies down and windows frost up,

      Like living manna, the little ones grow around us, three draped between us,
      One on the pullout, another curled like spaniel or setter at the wide foot
      Of the wide bed.

      It is the same when I go away for awhile. I will hold
      Myself at an arm’s length of mind, cock-eyed, like someone vain trying
      To shoot himself with a camera:

      The boy, I wonder, should see himself
      In me, but probably doesn’t or can’t now that he is caught up in the time
      Of too much a boy to see what manhood promises for him one day.

      My oldest, she sees in me a faithless hero whom she has willed to love
      The whole of – even the grumpiness which will grow like whiskers
      At the short end of every day.

      My middle one is fierce and psychological
      All at once; she sees through convenient sibling alliances as tests of will
      Chalked up, tallied up and, with a hug for her old man, put up with.

      The tow-headed two-year-old stands against her own grand confusion
      With sky-blue eyes rimmed a teary red, two being the age of terrible things
      Like bones breaking out of their own infancy.
      She sees me in violet tears.

      And the youngest only gurgles his milky morning song in bed beside you;
      He is considerate, though, smiling through yawns at the pre-dawn light.
      I reach to kiss you farewell. His nubby fingers fumble for me, clinging to see.

  4. Quin Finnegan says:

    Yowza … isn’t the tow-head the same as the one doing good work in Peru?

    And “like someone vain trying / To shoot himself with a camera” … how prescient!

    Nice work … although “barren bedroom” doesn’t seem to have made much more sense then than in years hence.

    • No, the tow head is a daughter – oldest son was never a tow head from my remembering.

      Re: barren bedroom – you’re right, it never was barren… – I think I just let myself get drunk with the alliteration is all.

      thanks!

      JOB

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