Camille Pissarro, Gelée blanche, 1873.
Joyce E. Peseroff’s poem “April to May” appeared in our Spring 1979 issue. Her latest collection is Know Thyself.
1.It is cold enough for rainto coagulate & fall in heavy drops.Tonight a skin of ice will growover the bones of the smallest bush,
making it droop like the wristof someone carrying a heavy suitcase. This moving on,from season to season, is exhausting& violent, the break from the Berlin Wall
of winter especially. Like a frostbittenhand coming to life, I colorfirst with warmth,then with pain. Thawing, letting
the great powers gotheir own way, in rivers & in flesh,frightens me, as this daywarns me of an icy night.
2.Each year I am astonishedat the havoc we have wroughton other lives: fathersmade tiny by cancer, a mother
swollen around a bad heart“brought on by aggravation.”To suffer is to do something newyet always the same—
a change of lifefrom the sexual dread. Some womenwish they were men, some menwish they were dead; still,
there is coin in suffering.Suffering makes usrich as Croesus in his golden tears,& we are rarely hated for it.
This coin I store in a pursemade of mother’s milk& flesh, which God says I must not mix.I use it to seek pleasure.
3.Walking around with this thing in meall day, this loving cupfull of jelly, waiting for youto come home—seven o’clock,
eight o’clock, eighty-thirty.What could be more importantthan love? I can’t imagine; you can.Not a good day, not about to get better.
4.The bird comes completewith heart, liver, & neck-bonewrapped chastely in white paper.Still half-frozen,
the legs are hard to separate.Inside, wax paper sticks to ribs.I reach like a vet delivering pigsOr a boy finger-fucking a virgin.
5.Air the same sweettemperature inside the houseas outside the house.Stepping up from the cellar
with an armful of sheetsI listen for the dirge of fliesUnder the chittering birds, bothPainfully loud. There is a stridency
that’s stubborn in a lifegrown by inches: the fatlittle fingers of buds bursting,ugly ducklings, the slow war
of day against night.As I pin the swelling sheetswith clothespins damp & toonarrow at the mouth, I wonder how
flies know to come outto feed the birds, & feast themselveson the new stillborn, this stubborngreat chain of being …
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