Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sample Poem from Volume XXXIV

Alessandra Gelmi





My father owned coffee plantations in Madagascar.

He had polio and

when I came home from school and

knocked on the door of our white house

I heard his metal brace scrape the floor

before I saw his face

and the marks he made on the Italian tile.


Haitia was my nanny, soil-black,

smelling of sweet almost lambent oil,

smelling of grapefruits, lemons, and limes.

My mother was an obstetrician,

smelling of dust,

an erect woman with alabaster skin

and a black bag

filled with silver instruments.


When I was born

my father planted a grapefruit tree.

For six years it bore no fruit.

On my sixth birthday, a single grapefruit appeared.

Don't pick it, my father warned.


It was then, outside,

between aggressive sunbursts,

my girlfriends urged me on.

Jump and get it! they shouted

Jump and get it!

Restless we were for this epiphany.


That evening, my father

burned me on the arm with a soldering iron.

Haitia had to leave the room.

I could hear her wailing through blunt walls.

My father frightened her

even though she was much bigger than he.


My mother, at the time,

was somewhere doing a Caesarian or

she would have stopped him I think.

Still, thirty-five years later to the day

I never pick flowers or fruit from trees.

I've learned my lesson, I'm respectful,

I walk without scarring a clean surface

something my father could never do.

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