Mudlark Poster No. 46 (2003)

Diane Raptosh

Monogamy | The Information Age | Condition
Interior Design | Everything | The Mother
of Her Second Daughter
| The Diva Regina’s Soliloquy

Diane Raptosh has published two books of poems, LABOR SONGS (Guernica 1999) and JUST WEST OF NOW (Guernica 1992). Her poems have also been published widely in magazines in the U.S. and Canada.


X had slept regularly—and for years—with Y, which seemed to offer simplicity. Even so, X figured when she was with Y in that way, she was mostly sleeping with the side of him that was a woman, whom we will call Z. Y, in turn, had long ago whiffed and tended to lean toward X’s masculine side—let us say he’s V. In fairness to Y, this too was obvious: He was drawn to the woman X necessarily was (let this be Q) who manifested herself primarily within and along the left side of X’s body. X also—and therefore, it must be said, both Q and V—appreciated sidling up in bed on a night in late July with the sliding door letting in the smell of clear heat next to the man Y was so very wisely. Him we will call R. Z and R were more or less equally smitten with Q and V. Which seems to render R both a gay man and a straight one, and Z, a lesbian as well as a heterosexual woman, or equally, each of these could be thought of as bi-. So it is the case with Q and V, only in reverse order. Which leaves X and Y sleeping with who is to say whom at pretty much any given time.

The Information Age

A loves B. Not in the sense of a committed twosome, but rather as the man with whom she parents the child, C, whom she lives with. A in fact is in relationship with D, who lives with his child by E. Child C and the child of D and E are both at an age at which they’re interested in boys and body glitter, though not necessarily in each other. B loves F, who lives in a stone house six miles away. He loves her more for her devotion to C than to himself. E lives off funds provided by D and, to a lesser degree, by H, who years ago left F’s sister. A has one other child too, by parents risen from a wholly different alphabet.


Thus often does she feel she has transgressed: the joy of her hand steeped in a vat of legumes at Fred Meyers—without the intention to steal; the tiny teeth feel of the edges of popped balloons; a view of this spiky mistletoe species of juniper tree; a glimpse of the backs of the necks of women with hair spiked like hedgehog fur; a glance at the yellow pollen-dusted snout of the hairy footed gerbil, the lengthened lower spine of the queen naked mole rat; a squint at a lizard licking a walking stick, at those little droplets atop hairs of the cabbage butterfly; an eye on the defensive glandular hairs along beetle pupae; one look at a male pipefish, at a stranger in the wick of a sneeze, at the female organ of the flower species solanum rostratum as it hangs to the left; a picture of a paradise tree snake, which librates mid-air; a peek at the tail of a trotting gray fox; the knowledge of the female pipefish; a good long stare at a pomegranate rent in half by hand; fixations on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot; the heat exchanger, the flywheel, the clutch; a handful of lug nuts.

Interior Design

We’d sit locked in these deep knee-bends sometimes fifteen minutes at a time, backs pressed against the east living room wall—my father, brother, sister, and I, human chairs strengthening leg and will and spine for ski season: pairs of eyes grave, gathered thighs bone-tight as bark on a maple; my father explained things something like this: He didn’t want his kids growing failing hearts and flab-chop lives like so many Switzerlands, so we’d sit there and tremble together—each on a private chunk of air—the Boise range to our west, beige and round as a plush love seat (palms growing loose and wet as a longspun cough) and quietly burn.


Why don’t you describe for us all you were able to learn from Thelonious Monk, the TV interviewer offers Sonny Rollins, wordwalk soft as the pink toe tarantula. Everything, he says. Her mouth curls tight as the good in a Gogol tale. She lays bare her palms at her knees. So what was it exactly he taught you? she asks. He concentrates with the lobes of his ears. Nothing, he explains. And shifts. Forehead shining like lyric.

The Mother of Her Second Daughter

What is absent has to be elsewhere to be. And yet. This woman takes up a place in their house as huge and baffling as the bass sax. Forlorn as a fog horn, off and on. Unstintingly, this poise is hers: the grace of the bronze-winged jacana, that tropical water bird whose fingerlike toes walk across floating live stems. Outside right now, for example, leaves fling themselves about the street like feathers from an outdoor pillow fight. Sometimes she is so calm, light fears the lay and weight of its very shadow; sometimes she enters a room as simply an isosceles triangle—the rough molecular shape of the smell of mint—or sometimes open at one angle, in the form of the percussion instrument. She is both knell and tinkle, roar and the susurrus used to converse with a wild cat. She has the in-house stature of a power forward in the NBA, the gentleness of an elephant nudging another's gland, nosing for pungencies to find something out. Listen to that smell!—some other woman on a continent half the world away shushing and tsking her sole daughter, whose lower lip and jaw and chin jut at precisely the angle of the young Joan Sutherland’s.

The Diva Regina’s Soliloquy

I have so many husbands I wouldn’t know what to do with one. And each man is different, right as light rain on the sea, distinct as night skies from a nosegay. I tender men as mostly great truths, whose opposites are also great and true. First there is Neil, the scientist who studies courtship songs from nine finch species. Then Arnold, whose livelihood lies within seaweed derivatives. Who thickens certain goods like whipped cream and wrinkle salve. Who also likes to sing. Who makes me breathe through my skin like certain marsupials just after birth. Fact: A buzzing social life steps up the immune system of the standard mustachioed rat, the tuco-tuco. Of course I have Lewis, my stock broker. Jim, the meteorologist. There is sensuality in the passing of hands over money, in the stretching of palms near the top of that blank blue wall where viewers see clouds on a map of the states. And the fact that husband can mean mistress of the house complicates the scene. I’ve loved Larissa Maughan, the Mountain Home Churn Dasher ranch hand, since she was a girl. She marched into me and made herself at home. My house is on fire three-fifths of the time. Sometimes I’m a large beaked bird in drought, crunching through tough-to-eat crumbs—the quiet in its wide acoustics, the voice a self-invented super instrument. I look after myself like an empress. Like an outpatient. Like a pregnant woman. I speak from the summit of my abdomen: To live is to lose everyone, each of us fit to ring past eight octaves should it be wished.

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