18 March 2009

Diane Wakoski

[from Diane Wakoski's The George Washington Poems, Riverrun, 1967]

George Washington and the Loss of His Teeth

the ultimate
in the un-Romantic:
false teeth
                 This room became a room where your heaviness
                 and my heaviness came together,
                 an overlay of flower petals once new and fresh
                 pasted together queerly, as for some hady's hat,
                 and finally false and stiff, love fearing
                 to lose itself, locks and keys become inevitable.

The truth is that George cut down his father's cherry tree,
his ax making chips of wood so sweet with sap they could be
sucked, and he stripped the bark like old bandages
from the tree for kindling.
In this tree he defied his dead father,
the man who could not give him an education and left him to
suffer the ranting of Adams and others,
those fat sap-cheeked men who said George did not know enough
to be president. He chopped that tree --
it was no small one -- down and the dry leaves rustled
like the feet of cows on grass.
It was then that George lost his teeth. He
fell asleep next to his pile of kindling wood and dreamed
the old father came chasing him with a large penis swung over his
shoulder. But George filled his mouth with cherries
and swallowed the bleeding flesh
and spit out the stones in a terrible torrent at his father.
With the pits of the
came all of George's teeth,
pointed weapons to hurl from the mouth at his father,
the owner of that false cherry tree.

We all come to such battles with our own flesh,
spitting out more than we have swallowed,
thus losing part of ourselves.

You came to me thus
with weapons
                 and this room is strewn with dead flowers
                 that grew out of my breasts and dropped off
                 black and weak.
                 This room is gravelled with stones I dropped
                 from my womb, ossified in my own body
                 from your rocky white quartz sperm.
                 This room is built from the lumber of my thigh,
                 and it is heavy with hate.

George had a set of false teeth
made from the cherry wood. But it was his father's tree.
His lips closed painfully over the stiff set.
There is no question,
where you
got the teeth in your mouth.

George Washington Poems

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