Mudlark Poster No. 23 (2000)

Jane Yolen

Open Door  |  Woman Chief (1805-1851)
Ten Things You May Not Know About Me and Only Three of Them Are Lies

Called alternatively the "Hans Christian Andersen of America" (NEWSWEEK) and "the Aesop of the 20th century" (NEW YORK TIMES), Jane Yolen is a story teller, novelist, children's book author, poet, and playwright. Ms. Yolen's books, poems, and stories have won many awards including, among others, the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the Jewish Book Award, and the Christopher Medal. She has published more than 200 books.

Open Door

Elijah standing at the open door,
years hanging like tallith tassels,
like the drooping balls of a great bull
ready for the sacrifice. Who am I
to resist, the blood between my legs
as sweet as kosher wine,
making me drunk on first pleasures.
He gets all the girls this way,
brooding in that open door,
dark and hungry, his lips slightly moist
with secrets. We cannot resist
How far he travels each year,
his mouth framing the invitation
in a language both dead and alive,
as he is, quickened
by each new seder, each new sacrifice,
each new opening door.


Woman Chief (1805-1851)

I knew her
after the scavenging Crows
plucked her from her prairie nest;
after they raised her as their own;
after they painted her warrior-yellow
and drew red coup lines on her arms.

I knew her
after her childhood arrows
pierced the grass bundle;
after she had beaten the boys
in the game of Fight-on-Horses;
after she went to gather rhubarb
and came back alone.

I knew her
after she hunted the buffalo;
after she slew the Blackfeet;
after she shamed the warriors;
after the village burned
and blood called out to blood.

I knew her
after she was rich in horses;
after she had scalped her enemy;
after she struck the post
and told the stories
and won the respect of all her tribe.

I knew her
after she killed the white buffalo;
after she smoked in council;
after she was given her true name;
after she had been betrayed.

There was no burial place high enough,
no tree that could hold her spirit.
I see her still
in the solitary flight
of the hawk against the dusk,
hear her in its wild scream
as it drops in perilous stoop
to pluck its living from earth and sky.


Ten Things You May Not Know About Me
and Only Three of Them Are Lies

I lost my fencing foil in Grand Central Station while waiting
     for a date, the crowds so sparse, I could stare
     at each person passing by, but no one met my eyes.
I was a virgin till I was twenty-nine, and I wasn't kidding
     about the foil, which I often set down on the bed
     between me and a date, having read too much medieval lit.
My brother and I got free double bubble chewing gum for posing
     with balloons in our mouths, the biggest damn bubbles
     I ever blew. Never smoked, though.
I fell off a Colorado River raft, came up with my sunglasses
     perched on my nose, my Aussie hat on my head,
     like an Australian mermaid, though I could have used the gills.
My mother beat me with a belt, the buckle of which was a gift
     from Gene Autry; I wore the imprint of his name,
     like a getalong-little-dogie, for six days on my butt.
My father tried to fly a midget on a kite in Central Park,
     but was stopped by a big Irish cop. The midget was relieved.
     So was I.
I danced in ballet class till the blood filled my toe shoes;
     top heavy, bottom heavy, my feet too large for my height;
     still I wanted to dance for Mr. B.
I went mushing in Alaska behind a team of ten dogs who could run
     on three legs, lift the fourth and pee without stopping,
     a useful trait on the trail.
I found a West Virginia toad, kissed it, and it turned into a prince.
     You read poetry and you don't believe in metaphor?
I have written over two hundred books and half of them are poems,
     but wrote nothing of worth today.

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