Lynne Thompson's Beg No Pardon won the Perugia Press First Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Thompson was recently commissioned to write a poem to celebrate the installation of Alison Saar's statue of Harriet Tubman at her alma mater, Scripps College, and she has received residences from the SLS Summer Literary Seminars and the Vermont Studio Center. Recent work has appeared in Sou'Wester, Solo Novo, Ploughshares and the 2010 anthology New Poets of the American West. The December 2012 issue of the journal Spillway will be her first as Review & Essay Editor of that publication.
FEAR OF THE BIT
First came a thought of pronouns, under-
pants, tin. Next, she noticed her parents
feared evolution and abstract paintings.
They taught her to fear one-liners, drywall,
and the entire state of Georgia. She taught
herself to fear receptacles, sportscasters,
corkscrews, and the number nine. While
others admit to a fear of interbreeding
and nomads, a clan of wild gypsies fears
Big Ben. Some Christians own up to a fear
horses have an understandable fear
of the bit. Her firstborn—a sweet, smart
thing—says he's learned to fear statuary
but his sister declares she fears fear.
BEFORE WE ARE FULL OF RUE
come to me in the swagger of night.
Whether you are struggling vampire
or foe or star-breath, come—oh yes—
when I am in the land of malfunction
and curious syntax, of Strayhorn played
on Saturn's rims, come, when late-light
is least opaque. When owls start their
hooting, come. Whether or not I agree,
come like you've come on no Saturday
night before and alone, or, if you must,
come with your hands full of thyme.
Stay until the metronome stops then start
that tango all over again. If you come
to me, I'll give you lusty pandemonium
because, after heat-hard hours, I become
most true. Before it is too late—(and
isn't it always must too late?)—come.
And when we are completely filled with
the rue of our felonies, of our fallibilities,
tide and turn, then come once more.
SHE, NAMED P______ AT BIRTH, SPEAKS TO ME, SAYS
"You think you know who you are:
you do not. You think everything's great
in your gravy train life, your feet up
on the taboret, sipping fingers of Pernod
and blowing smoky O's of Gauloise
like you were born to it. You were not.
You were born at County Gen., the random
upshot of a collision between an urgent
virgin, a married man, and the backseat of
a Studebaker though everyone knows
there was no joy the night you got made.
You came into this world on cotton rough
from 10,000 washings. The doc showed up
late; then spilled a little Maxwell House
on the sheets; the nurses yawned. Mama cried
for you for sixteen hours before her water broke
and she's been in labor for you all her life. But
no one came; no one came to see. So in time,
mama just gave you away. Of course,
you don't remember that just like you don't
remember me. Me, who never got the pretty
dresses. Never got the vacations at the beach.
Never sat down with the family to eat lamb
and mint jelly on a sunny Easter day. No,
you don't remember me. It's as though you
were born to the manor, born to speak lousy
French and read Edwardian novels in a hot-
house; to gad about at high-tone schools,
to raise your finger just so, so the ruby shines.
But you don't know who you really are, Miss
Don't-Remind-Me; Miss Given-Away-Four-
you got my blood in your veins and you ain't
no fancy dancer, you ain't no pearls and piety,
you ain't no seashell by the seashore, and you
sure ain't no evening out at Lincoln Center.
You got me in your veins, got my chipped white
fence, my regular job, my 39-dollar-a-night
room in Vegas, and this name that ain't gonna be
at the end of any poem. But don't worry, my sister,
my slip of a pen, I'll never let you forget the night
you were born, my name was all you had."