A note about this blog:

The poems in this blog have all been previously published, but are not yet in order by date. I hope to do that sometime in the future, as well as to add others.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Painting Grandma

Painting Grandma

Bean tendrils curl like memories, twisting from the tip
of my brush onto the canvas before me.   Clipped crookedly
to the easel, small, bent and dark, an old sepia photo
calls memories of my grandmother into this distant studio.
To delight her only granddaughter, she let skin form
on my farina the way I liked it, brewed strong coffee for me
at an age when my parents called me “tender” and “too young,”
sweetened it with cream and sugar (and sometimes chocolate),
warmed me on winter afternoons with hugs and homemade soup,
baked cookies for me with sweet surprises hidden inside. 
And her garden I remember, and her in it. As she bent
to pluck peas or pull weeds, bulges of flesh and rolls
of stocking tops showed below the hems of her slips and skirts. 
I loved the neat perfection of that garden with its black, glittery soil.
Its bounty filled her pots and pans, her table, and our bellies.

The dark little photo invades my painting.  Brushed in first,
tumbles of white cotton candy ride brown, flat-bottomed barges
across a brown sea of sky.  I borrowed them from the photo,
too resonant in brown to paint in blue.  Tall beans wind
around rows of poles and pile on one another over mounds
of clouds, their leaves sepia brown on the bottoms and greening
gradually toward the top.  I paint the photo’s dark woman
secure between the rows, round as a snowman in this unlikely
season. Her grey braids I paint wrapped thin around her head,
like a shining tiara, her square face a tea-stained brown, leathery
and wrinkled as shed layers of sycamore bark. 

As the old photo revives my memories, Grandma
becomes the brightest point in the painting. I paint her bib apron
pink with red flowers over a frayed blue gingham housedress.
She reaches heavy brown arms to pluck green beans from plants
I paint in greens and golds before her.  The tips of their leaves overlap
her reproachful face.  I remember the smile that stern face
always turned toward me and I smile in return toward the small scowl
I paint on her lips and forehead.   “Don’t,” she warns my father,
“point that camera at me.” Through the shining, iridescent lens
in my father’s hands, through more than fifty years of silence,
my grandmother cannot see the granddaughter who with a brush
traces the sun-edged clouds, suggests the light in her eyes,
and defines her bean-burgeoning apron, nor see, beyond me,
the great granddaughters and great, great granddaughters
who across five generations touch her still-damp face with their smiles.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
for Nicolina deNigri Ciaranello

This poem was published in the Paterson Literary Review #39, 2011-2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Jungle of Light

A Jungle of Light

As he is dying, my father furiously
paints.  Instead of the small invisible strokes
he used earlier, precise as a photo, he splashes
light on the canvas with a wide brush,
bold and bright.

When he looks inside, he says, all is darkness
and vultures circling.  But beside him,
still wet, a painted phoenix
circles the sun.  It pulses with brilliance,
yellows, oranges, and reds.

Crouched over his easel, he paints
the sunroom he'd always wanted
but never had.  Looks out from a jungle of light
and leaf to a succession of mountains gold on gold
on gold in the setting sun.

When he can't stand any more, he sits,
and when he can't sit, he paints lying
curled on his side.  Water lilies, in another new painting,
each flame white, green and gold.  Light defines
the leaves and liberates the water. 

He paints a self-portrait, a bit of ink blue,
black, purple and plum.  Drenching him with light,
a sun rises inside his heart.  An absence of paint
creates the light.  And the paint is absent;
it's missing, more and more.

Mary StebbinsTaitt
This poem was nominated for a Pushcart.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In Murky Waters

In Murky Waters

Already her pink toes disappear into the small shadowed pond
That serves as a gateway to the underworld.  The sun sets
Due west, relentless, as she plunges deep into clouded
Waters, swims strong, and surfaces

In another world.  It’s not what you’d expect, dark
Damp rock, stalactites and stalagmites, clusters of bats,
Dangling spiders.  Here, dark things coexist with an improbable
Profusion of sunshine:  dunes, jungles, mountains, waterfalls,
Fecund green swamps.  Anything found in the above-world exists

Below.  That first time, Persephone saw only darkness,
The fire-lit throne room, the endless files of dead
Passing through, the grey river Styx and the huge grey swamps
Through which it flows.  Hades had to teach her.  She opened
Her eyes to find other eyelids underneath.  Hades, who spoke at length
About the “veils,” peeled away onion layers of Persephone’s eyes
Until a pale yellow-green light began to suffuse the endless

Night.  Layer upon layer he scraped away, until Persephone herself
Began clawing the masks of blindness from her eyes,
Like Dante, tearing off his masks.  After months
Of thinning, the sun appeared within rock and beyond rock. 
“Ah, sweet sun,” She said to Demeter, one spring evening, pointing
Down through stone into her husband’s chambers.  Demeter imagined

Her daughter weak from lack of sustenance, from drinking
Only grenadine for half the year.  At first, Persephone swore she would rewrite
Her own myth:  escape from Hades and return to the flowering earth.
Now, rewriting again, she sees herself as uniquely privileged, golden
Fish in murky waters, the powerful, winged and shining
Queen of the underworld.

By Mary Stebbins Taitt.

This poem won first place at New Millennium and was published by them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Counting Fingers Again

Counting Fingers Again

Because she’s sure the wolves have taken some, Geraldine
has started counting fingers.  She’s not sure how many she had
before.  She thinks they may have taken a nose, a breast or some
of her toes.  But mostly, her fingers worry her.  They look lumpy
and uneven, leftovers the wolves rejected.  She has fed the wolves
ice cream and donuts.  Slipped out with steak and chicken, hands full
of scrambled eggs.  Sometimes their long tongues and sharp teeth
wrap around her fingers, but always, they seem to let go and try again
lunging for the treats she offers them.  A nip here, a bite there. One,
she says, twoThree.  She starts again.  One.  The wolf pack forms
around her, sweeps her out into the darkness with them. Tonight, she
has frosted sugar cookies.  With sprinkles.  Her pockets are full of them.

by Mary Stebbins Taitt
Published in eDificewRecked

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Edge of Glass

Edge of Glass

My mother bites the edge of fine blown glass,
crunches fragments in her teeth and swallows them.

Cool, smooth and delicate.  Like dangerous ribbon candy.
She is a small, thin child, sepia-skinned, dark

hollow eyes with reflections of long-dead faces.
She scuffs her knees roller-skating, metal skates

on bumpy sidewalks from home to Grandmother's.
Yesterday, a match fell into the wastebasket.

The kitchen went up in flames.
She turns a Tootsie-Roll in her mouth as she skates,

chocolate honey-syrup darkens her tongue.
Sometimes, there is a large, strange bow at her throat

or perched on her head. Her dress is polka-dotted,
gingham, flowered, devoid of color.

Other times, the skate key bangs on a cord

No one seems to notice as she grows smaller

and smaller. Fades. Wrinkles around the edges.
Tonight, she turns another glass in her teeth.

Half a house burns from her dreams.
Tomorrow, she may disappear entirely.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
published in The Women Artist's Datebook

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Visit with Van Gogh

A Visit with Van Gogh

I walk through broad strokes of sun,
wheat bent over, women carrying
bundled sheaves, trees dark
in the distance.  At the edge
of the field, he sits, crumpled,
still, and filled with light.  I sit
beside him, look out over the late
afternoon, over the stubbled fields,
the roughened skin of soil. 
In his dark wild eyes,
for one moment, I see galaxies
colliding, shining cities of darkness
crumbling.  His gaze returns
to his palette, to the field beyond
his work.  I finger an obsidian chip,
feel the edge of its glassy smoothness,
the darkness of his implosion.  A black hole
flowers at the center of his soul.
The bottom of my sleeve, the hem
of my dress, my hair blow toward him.
A great light radiates from his darkness,
illuminates the coming night.

by Mary Stebbins Taitt
published in Montserrat Review

Marie Rivet has translated this to French, which you can view here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Into the Current

Into the Current

We hid mountains under the sheets, a rising core

of flowered Appalachians. You thrust me into the shapes
of krumholtz. Fairy forests at the edge of rock, trees twisted

into storm. Cougar on granite; eager feasting at the warm flesh

of a doe. We hid the wind, the sudden first warm day of April,
snow still in the shadows of the oaks. Heat drove us

from our cave onto the rocks above the precipice. We tumbled, plummeted

into the gorge. Colliding in air, we crashed to the water.
Into the current, over the falls, into the pool. A sudden mountain

pool. Lit by trilliums and bloodroot. Coo

of a mourning dove. The first white-throated sparrow sings. Flies from
under the sheets smack into the still-closed window.

Crumples, chest fluttering, to lie stunned on the bedroom floor.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

(this poem appears in the Feb/March issue of edificeWRECKED, I'm unsure of the year --2005, I think)