Mara Adamitz-Scrupe

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

Red Wool Coat Speaks of Love

 

You think you know everything there is

to know about a winter coat,    plain

 

And practical,                  felted black or navy blue,  one like that

will do just fine         until the red wool coat speaks

 

Its crimson words of love, and you think: If I had that bright

red coat with the real rabbit fur collar wrapped warm

around my neck          I could be anything I want,

 

Lara in Dr. Zhivago          or Maria von Trapp,

Or an ecstatic whirling,          giving praise to love’s

 

Mute joy,          spinning soundlessly down the aisle

of the J.C. Penney,          Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue,

 

          eight years old.

 

 

Babcia, 1943

(from the Polish for grandmother)

 

 

What am I supposed to do for the millions          worked,          worked to

 

death;          Dad’s Babcia in America,          by the radio,          weeping?

 

 

How am I supposed to manage          their stolen labor,          labor

 

stolen with intent to murder,          labor purchased          with death?

 

 

Why are some allowed to claim horror but not others,          point a

 

finger at the dead who can’t argue,          claim ownership and exclusivity          of

 

loss?

 

 

 

Boys’ griefs are not so

grievous as our yearning,

          Boys have no sadness

sadder than our hope.

– Wilfred Owen, 1917

 

 

Another War

1.

Hospital trains chug back and forth from the front.          They were bleeding faster than we could cope          and           the agony of getting them off the stretchers

on to the top bunks is a thing to forget          (an Irish nurse remembers that[1]).

 

Les grands mutiles will holiday in seclusion so as not to aggrieve us with the waste of their mangled faces.

 

2.

Boarding ship for a misremembered continent. Pencil stub in one

hand, picture postcard in the other:

          Sailed on this ship from Brest, France,

August 28th, 1919, 2:30 PM.

 

          Holy Name deliver us from all evils.

 

Plain cardboard box, mended corners, sheaved

bundles of pay stubs, prayer cards, foolscap sueded with age:

 

cet agent pour faire le service comme chauffeur sur les lignes.

 

Oil-gray ash, folded tissue paper, cotton

pouch, initials sparrow-stitched on grief-stained linen

handkerchief;

 

          Hail Mary, Mary,          Mary

 

 

 


[1] McEwen, Yvonne, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary: British and Irish Nurses in the Great War, published by Cualann Press, 2006.

 

 

 

Christmastime

 

 

Sounding the worse for wear and grief, her voice

 

soft and thick as Christmas oysters stewed in butter

 

and brine,          she says she has a cold she can’t

 

get rid of.

 

 

It’s been heading this direction for some time now she tells me

 

so I shouldn’t be surprised, names  are altogether gone, but the hardest

 

part of all is what’s left over,          the words he returns to again

 

and again.

 

 

A nurse steps bedside to draw another vial of blood          Love you,

 

hon,   he smiles gamely    or   There’s my beautiful bride!           He has twenty

 

different phrases she tells me          give-or-take a few,          in an all-purpose lexicon

of love condensed.

 

 

 

Handyman

 

Some people never get rid of anything.

 

Their sheds are full of stuff too valuable to throw away, pole

barns packed to the rafters: torn screen doors, three-legged

chairs, stuffed full bins of do-it-yourself screws and nuts

and bolts sure to come in handy one of these day.

 

Some people have so much they go on TV for help with the

mounds and piles and boxes crammed so tight and piled

so high they need paths to find their living room sofas, their buried

beds and kitchen tables  their spouses leave them and their children

move out and refuse to come home until something is done.

 

Some people find a use for everything, they never let a thing

go to waste. They stand and stare at the rotting steps, the holes

in the roof,   willing miracles of reparation.          Like patron saints

 

Of all things that fall apart, they seem to know just how to make

the best of salvaged slates, two by fours, and weather-beaten siding

stored in the rickety barn.

 

 

 

Everything

(for Bill)

 

Physics: the study of the physical world, the galaxies,

the night sky you wrapped your love around. Over breakfast

 

at the fancy hotel restaurant you chose

your words carefully:   sons,          failures,    regrets.

 

A trip to Bayreuth over coffee.

 

I never took you for a Wagner man. I never took you

for disappointed.

 

Before you knew me           you handed me your life.

 

I never returned your book of stars.

 

 

 

 

In Country

(for Scott and Ronnie)

 

 

Rednecks,          crackers,          good old boys,                    true

as anything, I guess,                     Jack Pine savages, too,

 

if you’re looking north,          but boys          just the same,   and a .22 is perfect

for squirrel-hunting,          dead aim required   sharpshooters

 

in bygone homegrown wars,           snipers in ‘67          trying hard

not to die          angels of our better natures,  you were ill-advised

 

to shift vocations,          take the blunt of it,  come home to disco

 

          and refugees:          business as usual.

 

In meth lab country we shove rags in our mouths          so nobody

knows we’re abandoned          lately          I hear more

than I have in years          an afternoon of August hot so hot nobody

pays attention          hovering in that field where the goat shed stood

 

          sit on a stump          scratch an itchy neck and remind me

          how it works,          returning to places we know as us in dreams

          scars heal like miracles,          bruise-less, unblemished

 

If all my dreams came true  I would paint you big          and let you live

 

 

Personally, we know nothing of state ordered hell,          but journalists

know a story and it won’t last long and neither will the cast          no Brokaw’s

 

greatest this time around          lip service for stooges and misfits too stupid

or poor to stay out          red tape and sweep them under the rug and Agent

 

Orange and deny them access          our audience over the shoulder

patriots          we hate this war but there’s a story to tell  –

 

 

Today the tree guy came:          Afghanistan and a bad attitude

climb at my windows.

 

 

 

Memorial Day

 

 

1.

Looking after the recent dead is no easy task. You must visit

them for birthdays and anniversaries, remembering to bring them

bouquets of plastic flowers or a whirligig or a miniature flag

on a stick.

 

You must speak their names but softly, and read their epitaphs,

and step lightly between them as though they are asleep and your

presence,    the sound of your voice,   your breath,

might awaken them.

 

You must stand at their feet or kneel          conjure their voices

their hands, their eyes and mouths and feet, murmur prayers

or weep while white-gloved bagpipers pipe and march and salute and play

a rendition of Amazing Grace.

 

 

2.

The long-dead ask far less (these fugitive and tangled and nearly

erased), they long only for sweet bright days and brisk black

nights pricked by stars the light pours through, and shadowed trees

gone leafless, stretched lengthwise,          across ice-crusted snow.

 

 

 

Names for People and Animals

(Elton’s Letter)

 

 

More than a black granite wall, or something

else:          excuse  evidence explanation          what he

did or didn’t, loved or hated, or missed any chance at all to

                    Pop,          go to Sears

Or Wards and order it if you can just put his

address on it that way he will get it before

 

Speaking across decades this is as good

as it gets          or just better

than nothing                    29 September 1969.

 

September 29th. Quang Tri Province. Artillery,

rocket, or mortar fire

 

What I mean to say is          every living creature

wants a name, to die knowing it was worth

something:          notice me too!

 

Fox carouses in drifts outside my window          eyeball

to eyeball,          calling or naming

 

or asking.

 

 

 

Shivaree

 

          Some scary things some things,          some

things that sound like words but work like

fists, or cudgels if we live in dark

times.          Some things that fly

 

around the room striking the walls

and ceilings, splitting the plaster,          cracking, denting

 

          Some things that seem like omens, tarred

whispers, a serrated knife cutting

paper  something that splits apart

in the middle of the night, down

 

          The center like a seesaw with too

much weight on either end both riders bruise-

assed thud and hit the ground,          painful

          surprise,

 

          Some things that holler and shout

and weep and fuss, that shock the mouth like salt

 

          expecting sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

 

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