Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Martha Deed


Her stroke in '94* and mine in 2003
Is our blood still ours if it's escaped
our arteries but not our skulls
and direction, sound, and color scramble
where is the line between dementia
and creativity and how much worry
to the question depending on our age
playful with words at 50
or disinhibited at when
the woodpecker nods its beak
against the tree in front of me
the rapping enters from the rear
if we notice we cannot unravel
the riddle of a conceit does it mean
we will write in concrete now

*Well, I figured I was going to die because my father died when he was 49 and it runs in his family, what he died from, cerebral hemorrhages. (Interviewed by Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Foundation.)
Bernadette Mayer's first stroke occurred when she was 49 years old.


So here's the thing: If you grow up with mountains at your back ‒
even old worn-out mountains ‒ South Mountain and Hook Mountain ‒
just north of the Palisades in Nyack, New York ‒ you grow up
with geographic myopia: the sun sets in Nyack an hour before it
sets in Blauvelt or Nanuet and if you are a kid expected
to be home before dark, those hills (mountains) can ruin your life,
and if you live near the river, while you can see less than a quarter-mile
West, you can see miles across the river and up the river to Ossining
and look out of your attic window and you can see Sing Sing
and the Death House with two boys' your age Mother and Father
there and you can sit at the top of your stairs and stare out the window
on the day those boys' parents ‒ both of them ‒ were killed by democracy
and you can wonder how come this happened to a Mother and a Father
and why even your own mother and father won't explain it to you
beyond saying they did something wrong, but then again, you know
your own parents make bad decisions every day about meals and snacks
and allowances and bedtimes, but no one has killed them, which is OK,
and probably the boys now orphaned should not have been punished
by the loss of their parents either, all of which you remember 50 years
later when you climb those stairs to look out of that window for the last time
and you remember that day of executions and when you look out
of that window you see there is no view of Sing Sing or of the Death
House or of Ossining, but only of Tarrytown where
there used to be a Chevy plant and a ferry that took you there
which is to say it is true that the hills block the sun as they
always did and the river is open to seeing for miles
but neither the seeing or the not seeing explains what a child sees.


Does the old woman know she is in the Winter of her days?
the shortest day the eternal night soon to come?
and the lusty pine, sturdy, 100 feet tall against the seasons
the pine that has weathered ice and wind and snow
sheltered birds and squirrels and bugs and bark
has held on even to its cones
does it know which storm will cause fracture
the falling down of branches so heavy
the old woman will leave them
a dying, fading wreath around the trunk
until they are dull and dry in Spring?
If the woman knows she does not say
the signs and probabilities inform groups, she thinks
not individuals ‒ and certainly not trees

(c) Martha Deed


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