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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 66-69



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High Tea, and: In the Pool, and: Winter Sauna

High Tea

When a friend invites me to tea with her grandmother's Wedgwood set
that's blue as the ferry to Swan Island, blue as the calm, if it were a color,

I drop a dress the color of wild gooseberries over my head, pulling
toddler breeches onto my daughter's legs, her good foot kicking,

and bring nothing in the haste to leave the house, on this rare occasion,
but my two-year old daughter and diapers and a sudden interest

in heirlooms unpacked from a padded box that said "Save" on all sides –
Cups, saucers, and a pot with white trees and women on blue.

On the carpet in the sun, my child plays the games of hands,
watching the light stay, watching it fade, moving her body

from casted legs, right to left, sitting and sitting. This pregnant friend
turns her seven months' form with the elegance of a mime,

picks up the images of two trees, her husband's and her own, and pushes
them, the calligraphied branches and gold leaves, into my view and onto [End Page 66]

the fine linen space beside my cup. Names in careful hand fill
the clean lines of both. "English," she says, "all English –

Our trees are pure and I know we won't have a child
like yours, forgive me, but you know what I mean."

Behind the branches, uniform and detailed, nothing appears accidental,
rigged by an invisible hawser. I consider my own pale kin who

brought with them the scattered heirlooms of the inter-race, thinking
of drunk Uncle Charlie, the Abnaki, Ellis, the sad Welshman, Nana

who was farmed out through the Depression and farmed out after.
Not even a sharp kick under the table of polished silver will touch

this woman across from me who stirs her tea in the parallel universe
of comforting illusions. My old self, pre-mother girl, also dreamed . . . 

Beautiful in her ripening, she pats my daughter's head of pink scars,
putting one thing down, picking up another, the hammer for a feather. [End Page 67]

In the Pool

                          I lift her up and down
in the pool hands under her armpits she is cold
but happy in the clear blue water with music
from her large lolling head a kind of lowing
for she is not yet verbal on this tape that will come
she appears without words wide bandages stuck
like white bangs that belong to the siren and the ward
at the edge of the lens

                          At the edge of the lens
like white bangs that belong to the siren and the ward
she appears without words wide bandages stuck
for she is not yet verbal on this tape that will come
from her large lolling head a kind of lowing
but happy in the clear blue water with music
in the pool hands under her armpits she is cold
I lift her up and down

Winter Sauna

Unsure of the new, wide hips, slack stomach,
and milk-heavy breasts, she's sweating beads,

blushing roses, as bodies glowing in the white moon,
the sauna door cracked open by a poplar branch –

From this station, looking out at others,
she watches mothers poised in the same boat, [End Page 68]

babies not quite nearly like hers: the hostess
who fixed bowls of herbs, sorted candles to light.

That one's baby's small, and hers was large,
that one has a child with a fish-mouth, that one's

baby's nape is sweet, lolls its head when held.
She sits on the highest, hottest bench above,

watches them groan and turn to one another,
speaking to the attunement of common bells,

believing they are happy, scouring in sweat
somewhere between air and ground –

I am one of them, sinking into dark cedar,
my terrors tucked. My baby's always sick,

and that one, hers, is gone. Black licorice –
her baby's hair was the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-426X
Print ISSN
0032-6682
Pages
pp. 66-69
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-31
Open Access
No
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