Saturday, April 7, 2007

by Joan Dobbie*

You are neither father
nor mother.
You have married both
my sisters.
You have sired my children.

I hold you on my lap
call you nephew/niece,
nurse you at my breast.

Your limp northern hair
slips through my fingers
like silk thread.
I love you, lose you
and long for you

and find you, but can never
quite sew you into my life.

On bright sunny days you smile
like a child
in the dark of my chest
filling me with birdsong
and bluettes

but come night you turn hard
stiffen into uniform.
You are ransacking my house.
You are searching for papers.
You are beating my grandparents raw.

You force them to dance
in the blood -- all the babies--
'til their noses grow into carrots
and their legs
turn to matchsticks.

Stinking and gagging
I run from my bed
where you have no right
to be sleeping
soft as a flower

and I huddle in the corner
of the couch
in an island of smoke
that holds me
like a mother
yet rises in patterns
of nightmare on the window

and you call from the bedroom
"Joan, Joan, what's the matter?"
How can I tell you,
"Forgive me. I hate you."?

I would plead for you in Yiddish
but that language
you never heard of
and I, if I knew it,
I've forgotten.

appx. 1988

*This poem appeared in my graduate thesis, University of Oregon, 1988