Thursday, April 22, 2004

 

I ran my contribution to the R as in Rosenbach (26 Letters, 26 Poets) project (culminating in a big group reading next Wednesday at 6 PM) last Friday. I want to run a few more of the contributions here just to give a flavor of the different approaches poets might take to the same project. Nathalie Anderson is the author of Following Fred Astaire & My Hand My Only Map. She teaches at Swarthmore, publishes a comprehensive email calendar of Philadelphia area poetry events and is the poet-in-residence at the Rosenbach Museum.  

 

 

M

 

 

I.

 

Mm he says, like his mouth is full.  Mmm-mm
like his mouth is full of her.  Happiest
when she’s ripe, when she’s mellowed, well-seasoned –
peach for his sole plate, and every reason
to be grateful.  Kept, well-kept, kept dark, kept
in the dark: keeps her mouth well shut, and he – mm

keeps his mouth shut on her.  License, he says,
my roving hands, and then he says O my
America!  for my sake wear the Star.
I look at all your pictures at your dear Hair….
My dearest friend, he calls her.  Never Emma,
though Ever Ever More Than Ever hers.

He keeps his mouth shut on her.  Jealous and irked:
she’s the purse at his lips.  Wet through and cold:
she’s the tea for his tongue.  He’s willed her his cash,
absolutely your own, though morseled in trust.
What will he say when he’s called to the scaffold?
He’s blotted that page out.  He’s licked it with ink.

 

II.

 

When I was his mistress I stayed in all day
keeping the books, washing the sheets, writing
intelligent letters.  I wore the stars
in my hair, wore my own skin to bed, wore
only the rings my mother left me.  Spring
flares, and I flare.  Even at my age?

m.

 

 

 

 

Notes:

 

M Is For Mistress: this box contains:  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; Benjamin Franklin’s “Advice to a young man on the choice of a mistress,” in which Franklin suggests an older woman, because she’ll be grateful; a semi-suicide note by Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, who died mysteriously with one mistress and left money to a second; a 17th century commonplace book, in which John Donne’s “To His Mistress, Going to Bed” has been (in the words of the Rosenbach’s descriptive text) “heavily defaced with ink” and only with difficulty “recovered by the process of infrared reflectography”; and a letter of 6 March 1801 from Horatio, Lord Nelson to Emma Hamilton in which the following phrases appear: “The Star I have given you to wear for My Sake”; “I look at all your pictures at your dear Hair”; “My Dearest friend”; “wet through & cold”; “absolutely your own”; and “your dear kind friendly and intelligent letters.”  Nelson’s letter includes the jealous comment “Then I think you may see that fellow,” apparently referring to the Prince of Wales, but ends: “Ever Ever Ever / Your Your Your / More Than Ever / Yours Yours Your / Own Only Your / Nelson & Bronte.”





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