Fierce Like Whoa!

I have theme songs; they change fairly frequently and have run the range from Beautiful by Bobby Brown and Damian Marley to Carl Carlton’s Bad Mamma Jamma.

Less often, I’ve had theme poems.  But for a few good years, this was one of them. (Poem follows after the jump).

Instructions to the Double
Tess Gallagher (1932- )

So now it’s your turn,
little mother of silences, little
father of half-belief. Take up
this face, these daily rounds
with a cabbage under each arm
convincing the multitudes
that a well-made-anything
could save them. Take up
most of all, these hands
trained to an ornate piano
in a house on the other side
of the country.

I’m staying here
without music, without
applause. I’m not going
to wait up for you. Take
your time. Take mine
too. Get into some trouble
I’ll have to account for. Walk
into some bars alone
with a slit in your skirt. Let
the men follow you on the street
with their clumsy propositions, their
loud hatred of this and that. Keep
walking. Keep your head
up. They are calling to you– slut, mother
virgin, whore, daughter, adulteress, lover,
mistress, bitch, wife, cunt, harlot,
betrothed, Jezebel, Messalina, Diana,
Bethdheba, Rebecca, Lucretia, Mary,
Magdelena, Ruth, you– Niobe,
woman of the tombs.

Don’t Stop for anything, not
a caress or a promise. Go
to the temple of the poets, not
the one like a run-down country club
but the one on fire
with so much it wants
to be done with. Say all the last words
and the first: hello, goodbye, yes,
I, no, please, always, never.

If anyone from the country club
asks if you write poems, say
your name is Lizzie Borden.
Show him your axe, the one
they gave you with a silver
blade, your name engraved there
like a whisper of their own.

If anyone calls you a witch,
burn for him; if anyone calls you
less or more than you are
let him burn for you.

It’s a dangerous mission. You
could die out there. You
could live forever.


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