Music Lessons and Other Poems

PoemsRebecca

She(49), He (17)

 

“I am Young and ye are very Old wherefore I was afraid”

–Job 32:6

 

Slouched in the doorframe:

foliage of hair all  unwound

 

and curious, the lips insufferable,

hands two dumb animals—you’re anxious—

 

Excuse me.  You stand on all I can

give:   the undrawn line between there

 

and here. The grotesque cluster

of numbers invading the space between

 

two and one.  Negatives.  Accept

these gifts.  Easier when we were together

 

in one body,  better when my hands

settled over your shrouded head like stars.

 

You were almost visible then and bald

like a little old man.  Eventually the satin

 

dome of my stomach stretched and broke;

tufts of hair sprang from the lunar fabric of

 

your skull.   Oh god, I admit it,

I’m scared.  How defiant your hair!

 

How defiant the fingers,  bouquet of teeth,

finite kneecaps, chin and elbows,

 

defiant your neck, man’s neck.  Man,

every moment you’re getting more and more born.

 

I can’t quite stand it. But there you are,

endless torrent of your figure hunched

 

skinny at the space between entrance

and exit—vulnerable, flagrant—

 

Accept these gifts,  impossible gifts.

I ask you now only for time,

 

and time, and time.  Blunt solstice

of bodies, two, defiant,

 

impossible:  untangle yourself

from the constellation of my bones.

 

Music Lessons

Listen.

           Believe me,

 

I know you have stood naked and

proud as children in the hallway of endless gawking men.  Belipsticked. Derobed.

Named shameless. You have gnawed all anxious

at the ten lonely knobs of your knuckles in the wings of night’s unknowable stage: muted, then commanded:

Perform. Sing.

 

Oh, you. I know you.

I know this isn’t easy. Listen,

it’ll happen: A boy will pluck you like something ripe from the insistent crowd. Trust me: his fingers

are brilliant.    He will sit

cross-legged and unmoving on your chest. He will be earth-heavy. Do not pretend he doesn’t hurt.

 

Do not be scared.

This is how men do when they are lonely and embarrassed.

 

He will refuse to move. Move him first. Grab

tight the handles of his bowed shoulders, drag

the pit of his chest to your head, crack

open the

 

hot shell of his throat—this won’t be easy—isn’t

—yes—do it—open your ears like a prayer, oh, listen.

This is the second coming of something good.

 

There’s a rain behind the sternum,

a fat drumming jailed by ribcage. This is his heartbeat.

 

It is a song

he will teach you if you touch him, all soft. Listen. Try it. Tell me I’m wrong.

 

Still Life: Breakfast With Grandmother

 

Her hands are dried fruit on the table

before the old woman’s altar of Sunday’s paper.

She tells me—mouth a pressed flower,

throat laced with underwater

veins, straining, she tells me

that I wear this dress the way it’s supposed

to be worn. This is because I am thin.

 

She hasn’t worn a dress since

her sixty-third birthday, a night she

begged for wine and fell asleep empty.

Her body’s full of water now, swollen

and leather-coated. She is heavy;

she is full of too much.

Does she beg for death like wine?

 

Does she beg for death like wine,

my god—this is only breakfast. Death’s

a heavy word. Newspaper, eggs, toast,

paper napkins—the old peaches in the bowl

between us are terrifying.

I suppose there’s a point when it gets easy, the dying:

cool and simple as undressing, untying,

 

unlacing all that superfluous skin and shining

like the gentle blue surface of morning.

No shame in pouring

into heaven, where everything fits. Dorothy,

I am your girl-woman, woven

of the hair, the cotton, the space between

your daughter’s humble breasts.

 

I am girl-woman; I am beanpole-thin.

Like a bullet I wear this dress.

 

Germinal:

(after Michelle Knight)

If she cannot have this baby you also will die.

 

The mottled hands give no rope–

untied, tense menagerie of fist & fingers

unraveling before gateway of thighs, thighs:

If she cannot have this baby you also will die

 

This is instinctual, count your curses like

gifts. Remember: cup first the soft head, then neck,

drum of stomach. Unbury the mouth, father’s eyes:

If she cannot have this baby you also will die

 

No throat deep as youth. You would know.

Ten years ago braces, apples, your birthstone,

archipelago of life. He giveth, he taketh—too familiar,

the aortal cries: if she cannot

have this baby you also will die

 

 

No small price for this, the new life—muted

ligature, upper lip, miniscule & precise. Small body

chained to smaller body. Even now, cut these ties.

If she cannot have this

 

**

 

I need not mention womb, contusions,

a silent house in Ohio. Forget captive.

Midwife? Never.

Remember, you escaped with a silence even

the sky cannot tie down— alive & fullgrown &

chained to nothing.

Rebecca Beauchamp is a fan of Rilke, cats in cowboy outfits, and top-40 radio hits. Influences include Dickinson, Baudelaire, and Bidart, but mostly her Australian shepherd, Hurley. She’s an undergraduate studying Creative Writing at the University of Virginia but neophyte, she is not: she won a statewide poetry contest in the second grade for (what she believes to be) her magnum opus, ‘The Cat’ (a memorable line being ‘The cat, the cat, quiet as can go/ I know he knows something that you don’t know.’) and ever since then she’s been writing nonstop. In D.C. she came into her own as a spoken word poet, performing at numerous venues in the Metro/DC area. Our poet began her collegiate journey at Virginia Tech, where her work was selected for the school’s literary festival, undergraduate research conference, and won the English department’s annual prize in poetry. Has she been published in The oh-so-estimable New Yorker? Has she been in the running for the Nobel Prize in Literature? Well, no. Not yet. She does, however, know how to whistle every recorded Led Zeppelin guitar solo and makes a mean blueberry pie.