I don’t usually post notes to accompany poems, but these were of real interest. And I know the readership of this blog is interested in process, as evinced by the lively discussion of revision on “White Nights.” Let me encourage contributors o send work with explanations or questions of writing process.
Driven by cancer’s dark-winged threat,
she finds her way to a forbidden shore
where thousands of seabirds
nest in the underbrush.
This time, it’s the human
who’s out of place —
no highways or high-rises, here.
Only scrub palm & sea oats
& the calls of a thousand gulls.
Here death seems a natural thing:
cartilage, sand, & eggshell — one,
she can almost forget
the cool tubular stuff of hospitals.
On the beach
shipwrecked memories wash jagged rocks.
A white-faced pelican swoops down,
its pouch a loose-skinned rumple.
On fat webbed feet, it flip-flaps
up to her. She strokes its wing,
pallid but warm
against her open hand.
1 in 3: Women with Cancer Confront an Epidemic (Cleis Pres)
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Every evening at eight,
swoops & soars
through pink-streaked sky,
a silver sheath—
futuristic, majestic, prehistoric: one—
On spindly legs,
among tall grass & prickly pear,
blends into willowy sea oats,
Only to appear
again beside a pool
where a stone heron waits.
One lack leg tucked,
eye fixed to painted eye
so still so long, he seems himself a statue.
Huge, seven feet tall, paint-chipped,
legs & tail merging into basin.
Or is it in the wait
Water trickles beak to breast,
tap-taps ivory pebbles,
“Pygmalion’s Song.” Zeus Seduces the Wicked Stepmother in the Saloon of the Gingerbread
House: Myth, Fairy Tale & Legend for the 21st Century. Ed. Susan Richardson. Boise,
ID: Winterhawk, 2008. 22-23. Print. ISBN: 978-0-615-19969-6
“Pygmalion’s Song” alludes to Ovid’s story of the sculptor who fell in love with his own creation, having carved a beautiful woman from ivory. I watched a blue heron at my sister’s house in Florida stare at a statue without moving for several hours, and voila, the poem! “Pygmalion’s Song” first appeared in Zeus Seduces the Wicked Stepmother in the Saloon of the Ginerbread House: Myth, Fairy Tale, & Legend for the 21st Century (Winterhawk Press).
“Sanctuary” portrays a woman fed up with medical treatment and hospitals who makes peace with death on a rare spot of pristine Florida coastline when a pelican approaches her. This poem was first published in 1 in 3: Women with Cancer Confront an Epidemic (Cleis Press).
Marsha Mathews is an Associate Professor of English at Dalton State College, GA.