Archive for Sunday, January 27, 2002

Poems by Alice Ann White

January 27, 2002


a tiny smiling child with popsicle stains on her shirt

in the picture a yellow t-shirt with a blue brontosaurus on the front

no pants on, just my underwear and a band-aid on my knee

running around barefoot in the grass with my big sister, hopi

we were in the old house then

a garden was a farm to me then

dad said i had to stay away from the well

a stone circle wall with a roof on top and a bucket on a rope

just like snow white sang into when the prince first came

daddy said to stay away from the well

through the kitchen window i'd sneak looks at it

and my breath would fog the glass in winter

hopi whispered to me one night in bed

she said if i fell into that well i would land in china

we had a bee room in our house

no one could go in because it was filled with bees

they lived in our house before we came

because they liked the yellow flowers in the bushes right outside

i could hear them buzz around all day

with my ear pressed up to white styrofoam wall

those bees were angry, wanted to sting me

and even when the bee man came

left a carpet of dead bees covering the floor

i would not go in that room

hopi said they would be back

tonight i lie and listen to the rain

remember the world of that four year old girl

and though i'm tall and all grown up

i taste the cherry of that popsicle still melting in my hands

in the fading picture i found today

and with my childhood long behind me

i still wonder what is in that well

and will those bees forgive us

A Supplication to the Dread Goddess

Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, protector of cities, hear this prayer.

If I ever loved you and poured you libations with sweetest wine

So many nights and pale rose mornings, do this for me now:

Come sprinkle my chest with ambrosia and nectar

As you did for Achilles when you flew from Olympus

To where he lay on the ground, tearing his hair out over Patroclus,

And gave him the strength to save all the Greeks and conquer Troy at last.

Or close my eyelids with your immortal hands

As you did for Odysseus when he crawled onto Phaeacia's shore

After two days of treading Ocean, fighting Poseidon's wrath

And gave him soft sleep to soothe his pain and restore him for his journey home.

Or if you cannot do these things, since I am not a hero and never was,

Then, Goddess, if you can, just stay with me now

And stand beside me as the black fates gather

For this is the hour I need you most, and no one else can save me.

when they broke my jaw they did it just right

i woke up in a white room i couldn't quite make out

and couldn't sit up or talk at all

or remember what had happened

why i was lying there and why no one would give me any water

i mumbled for it and my parents to the nurse

who was trying to feed me ice chips from a paper cup with a tiny wooden spoon

she jabbed into my mouth over and over

and i wanted to throw her on the linoleum floor

so hard she felt like i did

unable to decide if i'd been through a war or hit by a semi in mid-sentence

i hated the smell of the plastic

the oxygen mask the nurse put on my face

when my shaking finally stopped the ice chips

it smelled like death and nursing homes

and the air was making my lungs dirty

when i noticed my left arm asleep at my side

there was crusted, dried blood all up it and red instead of clear liquid

flowing through a tube leading down from above

and into the needle stuck in a vein on the back of my hand

they must have had to use the extra blood they said i wouldn't need

i was contaminated with it, the filthy red all inside me and left there spilled on my arm

and i couldn't move my lips,

swollen up over where my top jaw had been screwed to bone and sewed in place

to tell the nurse to just let me die

when they broke my jaw they did it just right


i didn't know dandelions were weeds

until my mother told me

i thought that they were beautiful

in the spring, primary yellow with jungle green leaves

sprouting up everywhere

they were strong and smiling,

wild and what a lovely name

lions in my own backyard

who turned to wishes when the summer came

i had breath enough for all of them

but in the kitchen once, she told me

when i brought her a dandelion bouquet

that they were weeds and sucked the life

out from the flower bed and from our climbing tree

and that summer i knelt down in the grass

on my knees beside her for our revenge

and we pulled at those weeds all day together

till we were good and dirty and sweaty in the sun

and we'd killed all the lions, one by one

fighter jet september

that was the fall that fighter jets raided my dreams

each night, they zoomed above our roof and the whistle sound would make me wince

as bombs dropped through the ceiling, leaving shrapnel with me in the sheets

and i'd wake up panting, looking for cover, wet with sweat that felt like blood,

the hot streams flowing down my face in muddy red

until i turned the lights on

that was the fall i walked home from school and wouldn't take the bus

and i'd kick the rotting leaves in the gutters, trying to shake out

the things i'd seen and would see again

when i'd fall asleep

and hear them coming for me

the men whose faces i never could make out, in groups of twelve or twenty-two

who wore all black and always could catch up and didn't care

that this was my dream, my head, my bed they were ravaging,

tearing it up until the only things left were

bits of pillow and bloodstained pajamas and the lone head of my teddy bear

that was the fall my mother told me

the news was no good anymore, and when the same thing was on all the stations

she'd turn the tv off and say, let's play a game

how could she guess that even the little green houses in the monopoly box

and the tiny top hat and thimble piece

would turn against me in my dreams, spiraling down from the swarming jets

with grenades and little notes that said,

nice try, but remember

you can't stay awake forever

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