Mudlark Poster No. 62 (2006)

Five Poems  |  Liz Dolan

Teresa of Avila, Mystic, Reformer, Exhorts Her Sisters
Marie Curie Illuminates her Research for Us
Marie Curie Speaks to Pierre
Sister Dorothy Stang, 72, Reflects on her Assassination
The Woman Who Held Her Ground

Liz Dolan is a wife, mother, grandmother, retired English teacher; she is most proud of the alternative school she ran in the Bronx. She has eight grandchildren who live on the next block. One, David, has Downs Syndrome; he was born when she was grieving the loss of three family members in four months, one, an infant born dead. Now she knows David came to help her heal.
          Liz has published poems, memoir and short stories in The Delaware Anthology, New Delta Review, Rattle, Harpweaver, and Natural Bridge among others. A Delaware Division of the Arts fellowship recipient and a Pushcart nominee in fiction, her work in Mudlark, Poster No. 54 (2004), Lost Children, was chosen for The Best of the Web del Sol. Recently accepted as an associate artist in residence with Sharon Olds at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, she is also on the board of Philadelphia Stories.

Teresa of Avila, Mystic, Reformer, Exhorts Her Sisters

I, a bare-foot, foot-loose pilgrim,
wandered in the heavy Castilian air,
took bread when sick from the pierced hands of Christ.
And thus, Sisters, I know you can do this,
you can surrender your leather zapatos,
the brooches pearling your beads, your perros
fatted on roasted beef yelping in your laps.
For you, I, have slept in lice-infested inns,
endured lawsuits and venomous gossip,
fended off the Doña with the patch o’er her eye.
Soon I will shed this flimsy carcass
and its sweet odor searing your nostrils
will move the worldly fools who need saints
to do strange things.
La vida es sueno.
Tell them, Sisters, mi corazon, now encased
in jeweled rock-crystal, an angel
once pierced with a fiery gold-tipped arrow.
They will enshrine my emerald-ringed finger
on the cathedral altar in Avila. Later Franco
will sleep with my left hand by his side.

Marie Curie Speaks to Pierre

Your ticking watch, held close
to my ear, delivers a message from you,
believer in radiations: caloric, electric,
sonorous. Its hands move long after
the wheels of that three-ton black carriage
stilled you forever in the Parisian rain.
I place my forehead on your coffin
and—was it a wind?—that cooled me,
told me, fear not. The glowing ribs
of your body touch me in the blue light
we worshiped at night. The spokes of your
crushed black umbrella lie twisted by the door.
The overhead fan casts shadows over the
marsh marigolds you chose, still
fresh-petaled, next to the washboard
by the kitchen sink.

Marie Curie Illuminates her Research for Us

It is all about light
the luminous light of the mind
and the silver white of the radium
we worship together at night.
And the absent light on that rainy day
in Paris, Pierre, you beneath
the black umbrella, blind
to the carriage that robbed you of light
forever. And your protege’s eyes
that move me to surrender
my black dress for white
a rose at the waist.
His mind vivacious
his luciferous wife blind to it.
She threatens to kill me,
calls me a Salome, a Jew, a Pole.
And luminous watch dials
the factory girls paint
pointing their brushes
with their lips. And the light
that fissures my fingers and
bleaches my bones so they glow.

Sister Dorothy Stang, 72, Reflects on her Assassination

To Anapu, Para, I came forty years ago to teach
the dirt-poor peasants: manioc, first, cocoa,
then coffee and peppers. I will decay
like leaf litter, empty myself, nutrients weaving
into the under story of El Yunque. They call me Madre Mae.
Rose rings of light coil sinking through the umbrella
-canopy: alizarin crimson, ultramarine, viridian,
as rain runs off the drip spouts of leaves soiled
by filth we cannot clean. It is Lincoln’s birthday.
I should have feared the horns in the bushes,
the flat white face of death. Now the lianas vine
about my ankles, bromeliads and periwinkle
grace my requiem, blood speckles the rain
forest floor; my best blouse berry-stained.

The Woman Who Held Her Ground’s Girl

In the photo from Froomkin’s studio on Avenue B
Ada Abrams poses, diploma, bouquet of roses,
sweet peas in hand. Like wax wings,
a bow spreads behind her cinnamon curls,
her brown eyes clear; her future sure.
For eighty years, she has lived in 633 East Eleventh,
apartment 1C, first floor, front, that red brick tenement
purchased by her father in 1905. Married at nineteen,
she left for ten weeks....
Now her only tenants are crack head squatters in 3D
and scrawny rats, their teeth clicking, tapping
wires day and night. She stuffs the empty apartments
with tables and chairs she scrounges from gutters
as though they are rented to Ashkenazi ghosts.
On bloodless New York days, she cinches
her father’s overcoat about her waist
like a Franciscan with a white cord.
Her grey hair matted under her wool cap,
wispy curls unfurling, she screams at the vermin
on her stoop, “You fuckin’ scum, get off my property.”
I implore her to sell, to find safer ground
but she’d rather linger by a table at St. Ephraim’s,
where the brown-gowned, sandaled priests—
men she thinks odd for choosing a celibate life—
ladle the chicken and spinach onto her plate.

Copyright © Mudlark 2006
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