Mudlark Flash No. 70 (2012)

win—win | The Woman Who Paints
The Living | On Days of Disorder


                                                                                    To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings
                                                                                      Of cities founded, commonwealth begun
                                                                                    for my mean pen are too superior things:
                                                                           And how they all, or each their dates have run
                                                                                                                 — Anne Bradstreet (1650)
no books but the bible

unless my brother smuggles them 
under his coat     —Arabian Nights— 
we hear that vinegar makes porcelain skin
chambered      we practice 
the art of fainting     a deadly pallor      
fervent tremble 
you lace up my neat little waist—
Scheherazade woos the Indian Sultan 
and I too could win     his mercy

a husband’s favors

her bodice

mined out from undergarments—
winnan      of Germanic origin:
to strive     contend     subdue      acquire
days are pockets     turncoat gifts
she lost a mile along the way
her property      stipulated
manly or unmanly
in marriage laws     favoring
he strapped his belt


to win her over 

make her precious
delicately      unstable
merely a girl
a flickering 
hysteria     forgoing 


lost and fallen

for the market     spins them
pure-faced angels—
vices are acquired elsewhere down
in boarded streets 
like key rings      threaded 

to keep order


and pretty still
I rest in yellow light
my spheres obliquely
cast within      refracting— 
a little walk
and now the winless spells
come easily
a hard      forgetting

into the air

young and precocious

she steals 
into her father’s well-worth study 
reads the forbidden novels—
to canter under lights
her ample dress draped sideways
one leg only      pressed 
against the pony’s flank
with half-wrought messages 
and yet      her levelheaded poise—
a plain child     
prone to pale-faced fits 
and nightmares—
father decrees      go stop the madness—
her dreams are wholly      winning
and exquisite


the sea today

has turned a windless flap
a rope-slack afterglow—
below the wind
a river grinds and carries sand 
for seabeds 
to subdue and take possession of
the woman question— 
its granularity
below the heights      tumbling      revolving
as afternoon

carries on

The Woman Who Paints

Spaces come to her by invitation. 
Three vases for the left-handed sister,
            smooth-stars, a cadre of abrasions: 
tales by the woman who works in awe—

and if the last flower 
            is deflowered and lasts no longer,
more feral in orange and blue—
look at how planes can swivel,
            precious as glasswork, spoons, milkweed. 

Light sets flames to the building
            where they butchered horses.
The great nations are warring their factions,
fair, blue-eyed, or other. Wheels of desire turn. 
In the swamp, black-dogs charge after you. 

Line, scrape, and stroke—
even love-days begin in mourning.
Founded on margins, she works 
            in the base and bottom, melt and mold. 
Dressed-up, her colors pour out

while America quotes itself
as men revenge the day. 
Her country is abstraction: 
            to draw away, and be drawn from 
                         like water, bleeding—
            pink fades from the lips, the gums. 
A cross-stitch trails off. 

She paints a layered skin, 
looks with a lighter heart, clasped
            or spotted with purple. 

The Living

The living inherit the world’s blindness—
so much of it, they get blissfully drunk.

They go into the forest to hunt for wild boar,
laughing every bit of the way. 

Others appear at the kitchen door
hoping to win the cook’s favors.

Who will believe their stories of robbery, 
intrigue, and hard times! It’s true,

hospitality lives in the ancient laws,
but this hunger can hardly be stilled.

Inside the hall, they sing and cajole:
the falcon’s dance, the fox’s. 

A leg goes lame quickly, though; a hand 
is easily lost. The mind follows suit, mistaking

the trails. A search party finds evidence
of mastication, but not much worth reporting. 

On Days of Disorder

You keep asking, but 
I abandoned my secrets—
                         they drift on the air
like spent blossoms, parts of insects. 
             A yellow pollen 
settles on my skin. 

I wear a mask to tackle 
failures and things obsolete. 
                         Rat-faced animals 
crowd against the nearest fence. 
             A ghost garden! 
Shapes descend, mocking weakness. 

I want to touch— 
what, the deep-blue past?
                         You who shake 
like leaves in a gust?
             My personas step in,
uncanny, but polite.

They speak in my voice,
offering advice I’d rather not follow. 
                         Their saddest wish 
for you and for me—to the death— 
             is trapped alive, then banished
along with other interruptions. 

Leonore Hildebrandt’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Drunken Boat, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Quercus Review among other places. Translations of Rilke’s Elegies have been published in Cerise Press. A letterpress chapbook of her poetry, The Work at Hand, is available from Flat Bay Press, and a first book of poems is forthcoming with Pecan Grove Press.

Living “off-the-grid” on the coast of Maine, Hildebrandt teaches writing at the University of Maine. She also serves as an editor for the Beloit Poetry Journal. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Maine Community Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission.

Copyright © Mudlark 2012
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