More on dramatic monologues
Published: September 1, 2006
|She Says She Is Afraid|
He beat me real bad
this time. I'm pretty black
and blue. They told me
I can't come back to work
till I heal some, which I
get, cuz, I mean, who'd
wanna see a face like this
when they check in to
a fancy hotel like that. I
know I'm safe for a while
cuz he's in jail. They say
I gotta start taking care of
me but, I'm sorta worried
about him. I know he never
meant to hurt me and this was
the first time he ever hit me
that hard. They say I outta
press charges but I dunno.
I'm the only one who can
take good care of him and I
know he really hates being
cooped up so I'm scared.
I mean, if he goes to prison
I'm afraid he's gonna
--Sue De Kelver
Poem first published in Margie
Yes, I still spend my nights in sequins,
in fishnets and purple feathers.
I hope to leave this city soon;
I tire of the women.
They draw their brown coats
around them when I pass
faces puckered like sour oranges
hands in pockets as if I might bruise
them. They whisper lies, say I ruined
his life. To them, love is a crime.
To them, when those stuffed shirts
at university dismissed him from his post,
there was justice.
They still called him professor, even after,
the bastards, he was glad to leave
them, to go on the road with us.
I believe he loved living
on the road, out of broad steamer trunks,
helping me pack my silk and satin between
layers of thin paper to keep them
smooth, wolfing down sandwiches
at rail stations, leaving town quickly
when it came time to go.
Ah! the nights, the crowds!
City after city, from here to Berlin
every smoke-stained tavern pasted
our posters in their finger-smeared windows,
every city had a string of pimply-faced
schoolboys outside my door, businessmen
in woolen suits, sailors with pockets
of money. I didn't look at any of them,
in those early days, when we were happy.
But my professor, my Immanuel,
when his hands began to shake, his fine
black coat began to fray at the cuffs and collar
he didn't care! He would forget
what city we were in. He wouldn't touch me;
he moved through our rooms like a ghost
made of cigarette smoke and paper.
I didn't know what to do for him, I hid
away his books, to help him forget his old life,
it didn't help. And, yes, the Strong Man,
I took him in. I did not know, how could I know
the Professor would take it so hard.
This is the way of things, mein schatz,
I'm not to blame. Can't help it.
Welcome. We will remain here briefly
till your eyes become accustomed to the dark.
Now, a quick word about the cave.
Observe, please, that the entrance is
no longer visible. Indeed, from this point
there is neither an exit. Take heart,
however. The tour is about to begin.
Watch your head. The ceiling is a map
that can't be read, like the innermost
reaches of nothingness sometimes dense
and sometimes dead in the water of space,
undulating and vast. Allow me
to introduced myself. I am the light
which is the voice that squats like a frog
in the form of your tongue.
I have no words for your silence.
All around is the abyss.
Leap now or remain.
Poem first published in Eclipse
Courtesy of Bert's Tree Service
Twenty pounds of snarling Husqvarna
can clumsy a man awful quick.
That last little kickback
near took my own rope. Now I sit
stupid in my saddle, eat a sandwich
at the first crotch, two rods up this tulip.
Hung above in this stiff wind,
widow makers hiss the names
of widows made. Someone tell me
how I'm gonna limb this thing
and live to fell it. My groundsman's green,
spurs dull, butt-hitches been slipping.
Throw ball's in the bed
of the truck at the shop;
so I'm stuck tying monkey fists
and bitching. But
the hot little number in the sundress,
a couple three toddlers
winched tight to her thighs,
wants I fell this monster
so's to grow tomatoes and herbs
in pots on the deck.
Never wanted the job,
but damn if I'm goinna let some jerk
other than me
bring that sweet thing sun.
Poem first published in Passages North
I've heard he haunts the banks where we once sat,
neglecting girls who'd join him in his bed
(such is the gossip of the recent dead).
He failed for love. I cannot fault him that,
but his allegiance seems, frankly, deranged.
Though I was once consumed by thoughts of him,
I now know just his absence and these dim
chambers, regret. I find each day unchanged,
while he, alive, rejects all living choice
to sing of me, who fades more every hour!
Arriving years hence, pallid and storm-tossed,
that legendary lover's sure to sour,
finding me little more than shadow, lost
forever in the world's loss of his voice.
Poem first published in the now-defunct Cumberland Poetry Review
Portrait of Walt Whitman (1887-1888)
You see me now as the fierce friend of my final years
saw me; though he painted me resting, I'm not at rest
my brain whirls with continents. My eyes are open,
though death is limned in me like sweet drunkenness
and my cheeks remain ruddy. Around my head
and lips the gray hairs billow like wisps of smoke
or a final breath. On my shoulder, a flat collar flares
a white epaulet--none owned by Falstaff nor painted
by Hals was ever finer though I'm hardly a gay toper
like them. Sorely vexed when first we met, he wrote
"My honors are misunderstanding, persecution and neglect,
enhanced because unsought". I think he caught me dreaming
of his resignation and bitterness; I never liked this likeness
much (not that I told him).
From Eight Eakins Portraits
The Glass Blower
Scoop sand from the wide beach and bake
Until the silica melts and liquefies. Yet
What could seem more solid, once it cools?
I measure time in degrees Fahrenheit.
I blow my life into the iron pipe,
Spin glowing sand and make a pretty bowl.
You call it art. I call it weight.
By the end of the day, my wrists ache.
I'm tired of tricks. Being good isn't enough
Anymore, no good reason to do what I do.
Breath lies, blows flat platters from molten
Spheres that need to cool slowly inside a hot
Box, shatter to rough scalpels when dropped.
Tempting, sometimes. But notice the fluid
Beauty: how gravity pulls the edge of the plate,
Sags the windowpane in sullen waves.
My Turn to Speak
"My sister's been dead only three months
and already her husband has a new one on his arm!"
he storms, as he tosses his empty bottle on the floor.
His brother grunts and hands him another beer.
I pat the fry bread into balls and roll it as thin as I can.
I know they will tell me it is not as good as
their mother's or their sister's -- May they rest in peace?
but it doesn't matter.
How long is three months, I wonder, counted in grief
moments empty of the ring of her laugh?
I could tell them ... but I have no say in this house.
"And where is her squash blossom necklace?
Pawned, I'll bet! Better than given to that slut.
If Mama were alive ..."
His voice trails away like heavy smoke.
If it's pawned, he would know, I think, and if it went
to her ... Well, I know about girlfriends and gifts;
if Mother were alive she would beg me to come home.
I slide a circle of white dough into sizzling oil.
It puffs and turns to gold. Then I let it darken into an
ugly brown stone in smoking, sputtering grease.
"Carlos loved Juanita," I say softly, but my husband
and his brother stare at me as if in my language
the words mean something far different than in theirs.
--Joan Wiese Johannes
Poem first published in Free Verse