Three Poems


Anne Champion

FISTFUL OF FEATHERS

 

Sometimes, I see a man standing

with his back to me, and I read

youth in the slant of his spine,

the sag of his jeans, his protective

hoodie.  I see them everywhere,

and I have to restrain myself

from becoming the teen girl

I used to be, the one that ached

to cradle a man like that, the one

who thought she could polish away

the varnish of brooding

with her naked body.  Lately,

I’ve taken a young man

to my bed, not even old

enough to drink, a man

whose teenage years

still matter, who still thinks about

the kind of toxic dreams that cloud

youth.  I let him play

at taking me like a man,

even though sometimes I want

to tell him that his heart,

this one that he thinks weighs

so much, is nothing

but a fistful of feathers,

and the sooner he pitches

it to the wind, the better—

because it’s going to take wing

and every delusion that seemed to matter

will finally seem small.  No,

I’m never going to say that,

because sometimes I listen

to his big dreams and small pains

and feel like I’m a girl again,

listening to my boyfriend unravel

his briar patch heart.

It cut me: I always thought that love

was endurance.  Last night,

my young lover asked me

if I could ever love him. 

I said no.  I did not say

I have loved every version

of him I have ever seen,

that I feel these young men

haunting peripheries wherever

I go, like shadows dragging

at women’s feet, as if each woman

is a little light that can

make their darkness disappear.

 About the Writer
Split Lip Press

Anne Champion is from Kalamazoo, MI and is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013).  Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, The Pinch, PANK, Redivider, Thrush Poetry Journal, New South and elsewhere.  She was a recipient of the Academy of American Poet’s Prize,a recipient of the Barbara Deming Memorial Grant, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a St. Botolph Emerging Writer’s Grant nominee. She holds degrees in Behavioral Psychology and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College.  She currently teaches writing and literature at Wheelock College in Boston, MA.

 

PHONE CALL TO MOM

 

I’ve never had guns pointed

                                                                        at me, mom, never

 

             had teenage boys catcall me with an assault rifle

hanging as casually as my handbag,

 

                                       never been groped by a man I couldn’t tell off

                                                   because he’s armed, and his youth

 

is a strange sort of power I don’t recognize.

                                                              How does that make you feel, mom?

 

                         The guns?  The guns pointed at the body

             you bore?  I’m thinking about the way

                       

                                                               you used to raise your hands   

                                                                            at my body, the same incredulous

 

            resentment I felt at the threat of it,

                        and how I’d cover my behind with my hands to ease

 

                                                  the sting.  Then you’d whip them with a belt.

I learned early that bodies belong to the ones that take them.

                                   

                                                 I’m thinking about the boys now, mom.

                                     The teen soldiers and the other ones.  You ask

 

if I’m okay, if I’m safe with those people.

            Yes, mom, yes.  The Palestinians welcome

 

                                                               me like family and I sleep on their floors,

                        drink their tea, smoke their hookah. 

 

            The women tell me I’m beautiful and unveil

                                                                                       for me, and we laugh.  We laugh

 

                          and I thought it would be impossible to laugh

            here.  You were wrong about them;

                                   

                                    you were wrong about me.

                                                              I’m thinking about the boys again,

 

                                                 mom.  All those boys.  The Jews.  The ones

                         they shot and buried.  I’m thinking

 

                                                                            about if they were thinking of their moms. 

                                       I’m thinking about their moms.

 

I’m thinking about the Palestinian one too.

                                                             The one they made drink gasoline

 

                         and set on fire. They have pictures

of his charred body, stomach exploded,

 

                        pink intestines tangled in a field.  

                                    I’m thinking about how he must have

 

felt.  If he wanted his mom like I do

                                                                                      now.  You begin to cry.

 

                        I’ve never heard you cry for these boys

                                                                         and it makes me cry, because

 

                                     now I know how much you love me,

            how you don’t want me to hurt anymore.

 

                                                                            Mom, this is hurting me: that boy

                          they beat, with the red marks

 

                         around his neck and the swollen eye, the American

                                                                                        Palestinian.  They broke his jaw,

 

I think.  I don’t know. I saw him on TV

                                                              and it seemed that everything

 

            was broken.  You say, It’s not right, what they’re doing

                                                                                               to the boys.  How can they do this?

 

                                               I know that this is a sort of apology,

                       and I know that I have to believe in forgiveness now.

 

                       The boys.  So many boys.  The soldiers.  The martyrs.

            What will become of all these boys?

 

                                    Who can make sense of a youth like this?

                                    Mom?  I want

 

            to come home.  I want to forget

                                                              what people are capable of.

 

Let’s forget, mom, what we did to each other before.

                          Mom, don’t forget

           

                                                   to say I love you.  I’ll be home

                                                                                         soon, Mom.  I love you.

You hang up first. 

                                         I’ll wait here with the boys.  

RE-ENTRY

 

Upon my re-entry to America—

the flavored iced espressos,

running water from faucets

instead of rainwater gathered

on rooftops, the news:

the kidnapped boys, the raids,

the bombings in Gaza. Rows and rows

of identical homes beckoned

like shining perfect teeth in a sinister smile.

I couldn’t explain what it was like: stories

falling from my mouth like puzzles

I couldn’t make whole.  At home,

pillows made of feathers and a mattress

made of foam, and yet the world,

disrupting sleep with hatred, the cocktail

of fear and rifles, the paranoia

of constant surveillance by invisible eyes,

the way a tongue can flog

and cause a thousand deaths.

One thing I miss: the Arabic coffee

in the morning, its potent, decadent scent,

as faithful as a spine.

Three Jews kidnapped, one Palestinian

burned alive.  One soldier plucked

from the street and knifed,

two six-year-old girls run over

by a settler’s car.  Here, air conditioning,

pets, bookshelves, a sky

that never rains death on my head.

One Palestinian car careening into a crowd

of Jews, an orchard of torched

olive trees and more bombs.

And more bombs.

No, I miss more than one thing:

mountainside views, the constant

panorama of awe, the bright colored

hijabs in patterns I could never trace.

One eye for one eye.  The price

tag policy, revenge killings—they will fight

and they will fight and they will die.

Pop music whines from speakers at a club

and everyone dances themselves deaf.

I want to live and cry out until

my voice is gone.  I want to live

and dig deep into the earth

to unbury the dead.  I want

to link arms in the afterlife,

in a place where we don’t know

about the darkness among us that added

up to nothing, among bodies

that amounted to nothing

in that time of fog where we lived together

in the hour farthest from mercy.