23 May 2011

Elizabeth Alexander

[from Elizabeth Alexander's Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010, Graywolf, 2010]


Virginia Woolf, incested
through her childhood, wrote
that she imagined herself
growing up inside a grape.
Grapes are sealed and safe.
You wouldn't quite float
in one; you'd sit locked
in enough moisture to keep
from drying out, the world
outside through gelid green.
Picture everyone's edges
smudged. Picture everyone
a green as delicate
as a Ming celadon. Pic-
ture yourself a mollusk
with an unsegmented body
in a skin so tight and taut
that you'd be safe. You could
ruminate all night about
the difference between "taut"
and "tight," "molest" and "incest."
"Taut" means tightly-drawn,
high-strung. What is tight
is structured so as not to
permit passage of liquid
or gas, air, or light.

Six Yellow Stanzas [excerpt]


my yellow moon-
pie face, yellow baby
screaming in the middle of the bed.
You could pass for Spanish,
a man says, as a compliment.
You a high-yella gal, and I like that,
says a suitor. Yellow!

I dreamed I had a yellow baby.
In the dream I didn't feed it.
It dried flat on the blacktop
like an old squashed frog.
I tried to revive it with lemonade
by the dropperful,
but that was the end
of my yellow dream baby.


My thigh next to your thigh.
Your black thigh
(your dark brown thigh)
next to my black thigh
(which is "yellow"
and brown, and black).
Sunless flesh or sunshine flesh.
I startle myself
with my yellowness
next to your black
but say none of this,
and lick your skin 'til yellow-
black sparks fly,
a hive of bumblebees
which hum at your body
and do not sting.


Egg yolk, crocus, buttercup, butter,
dandelion, sunflower, sunbeam, sun,
chicken fat, legal pads, bumble-bee stripes,
a bowl full of lemons, grapefruit peel,
iris hearts, pollen, the Coleman's mustard can,
the carpet and sheets in my childhood bedroom:
things that are yellow and yellow alone.

Elizabeth Alexander

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