Erasure poem (NaPoWriMo Day 26)

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NaPoWriMo’s prompt for the day was to write an erasure poem. In a nutshell, take a long poem and white out (or black out) the words you don’t want, leaving the remaining words in their relative space. I’ve done similar prompts before, so was game for a new attempt, however my first problem was getting distracted while looking for a long enough poem. I finally said Enough! Just choose! and ended up with Marge Piercy’s My mother’s body. I used the first two (of four) sections. (The link takes you to the entire poem.)

Note: I’m attempting to post this in the correct form by copying the poem, then changing to white font for the “erasures.”  We’ll see if it works…

***1.

The dark socket of the year
the pit, the cave where the sun lies down
and threatens never to rise,
when despair descends softly as the snow
covering all paths and choking roads:

then hawkfaced pain seized you
threw you so you fell with a sharp
cry, a knife tearing a bolt of silk.
My father heard the crash but paid
no mind, napping after lunch

yet fifteen hundred miles north
I heard and dropped a dish.
Your pain sunk talons in my skull
and crouched there cawing, heavy
as a great vessel filled with water,

oil or blood, till suddenly next day
the weight lifted and I knew your mind
had guttered out like the Chanukah
candles that burn so fast, weeping
veils of wax down the chanukiya.

Those candles were laid out,
friends invited, ingredients bought
for latkes and apple pancakes,
that holiday for liberation
and the winter solstice

when tops turn like little planets.
Shall you have all or nothing
take half or pass by untouched?
Nothing you got, Nun said the dreydl
as the room stopped spinning.

The angel folded you up like laundry
your body thin as an empty dress.
Your clothes were curtains
hanging on the window of what had
been your flesh and now was glass.

Outside in Florida shopping plazas
loudspeakers blared Christmas carols
and palm trees were decked with blinking
lights. Except by the tourist
hotels, the beaches were empty.

Pelicans with pregnant pouches
flapped overhead like pterodactyls.
In my mind I felt you die.
First the pain lifted and then
you flickered and went out.

2.
I walk through the rooms of memory.
Sometimes everything is shrouded in dropcloths,
every chair ghostly and muted.

Other times memory lights up from within
bustling scenes acted just the other side
of a scrim through which surely I could reach

my fingers tearing at the flimsy curtain
of time which is and isn’t and will be
the stuff of which we’re made and unmade.

In sleep the other night I met you, seventeen
your first nasty marriage just annulled,
thin from your abortion, clutching a book

against your cheek and trying to look
older, trying to look middle class,
trying for a job at Wanamaker’s,

dressing for parties in cast off
stage costumes of your sisters. Your eyes
were hazy with dreams. You did not

notice me waving as you wandered
past and I saw your slip was showing.
You stood still while I fixed your clothes,

as if I were your mother. Remember me
combing your springy black hair, ringlets
that seemed metallic, glittering;

remember me dressing you, my seventy year
old mother who was my last dollbaby,
giving you too late what your youth had wanted.

***

Russell asked in the Comments what this poem might look in lines. Here are a couple of options I played with.

The dark

silk mind

dropped skull

suddenly

veils down

 

solstice

all or nothing

 

angel thin glass

empty pouches

flimsy stuff of sleep

 

a book

a job

parties

your eyes

 

notice me

remember me

 

***

The dark

silk mind

dropped skull

suddenly

veils down

 

solstice

all or nothing

 

angel thin glass

empty pouches

flimsy stuff of sleep

 

a book

a job

parties

your eyes

 

notice me

remember me

 

7 thoughts on “Erasure poem (NaPoWriMo Day 26)

  1. I like this for two reasons. 1 what you have left is sparse and haunting (I wonder what it would look like if you set it out in lines?) 2. The patience and time spent to get the formatting right. I’m still struggling with formatting!

    Like

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