[from Donna Masini's That Kind of Danger, Beacon Press, 1994]
At the Bandshell by the River
This place, too, has its own integrity:
split, ruined, abandoned
walls of chipped blue cursed
with black names, red dates, green rage
it stands here quiet in the cool salt taste of the morning.
Today the iron gates are open --
no need to belly under the rusted bars
pressing myself into dirt and weed
after a night of a thousand mirrors, taunting, humorless,
my mother in my hipbones shrieking, father my knees,
tomorrows of a grandfather who sailed out of humped Italian caves,
coarse inland dreams
to a country where he fathered twelve children and died
far from the streets he called home.
How have I used his rough, stocky hands?
Where have I carried the few loose strands of his hair?
The fig trees he planted still ripen within me.
This morning I am loose as a river.
I laugh -- at nothing -- the way a baby laughs at wallpaper.
I follow the run of squirrels down curved wood benches in descending arcs
through the open theater once filled
with music, crowds, lovers sharing fruits from net bags,
restless children pressing bubble gum under bench slats,
performers stretching, sweating in the wings;
and the plane trees, the oaks, maples, lindens
the sap smell of their sex sticky.
The sun tongues its way out of the morning fog.
Through the gash at the back of the bandshell
the glint and twist of the river draws me forward,
up the cracked stairs across the bare proscenium.
Backstage the sun cuts through crumbling walls, falls
through the open ceiling, over collapsed
rafters and fallen staircases, falls
on brick and rubble, broken track, lights, cigarette packs,
pill bottles, wine bottles, old needles, a rusted washtub.
A nervous music fills the space: birdcall, squirrel-run,
mosquito, fly, pigeon, rat, sparrow,
the quick, particular movements whizzing over beams, whistling, calling.
I stand and listen at the brink of myself,
certain only of this, of this,
and the steady lisp of the river lapping.
That Kind of Danger (Barnard New Women Poets Series)