“Things That Are Muffled Open”
We start off slow like this, red. Watch
the stones tipping off our shoes, the snow.
Each second small and aspirin-flavored,
the learning of childhood. May I sit? May I
stand? Look both ways, please & thank you.
(Curtsy to the crowd.) (Pause for applause.)
May I sit? The world is gathering itself up
to answer, making hesitant check-marks.
May I stand? Lists of hurt already long
enough. Long enough, the world begins,
begins a sigh. So we’re looking at the
cracks in the lampshade. Looking for
the yellow to come through, where there’s biology: electricity: math, meaning
the more we touch it, the more it spreads.
Like menthol, heat rash. The louder it gets.
Stand back; I’m going to need that air.
The figure of the child, in these remarkable and haunting poems, hovers between animal and human, between the socialized world of first persons and an other world, ephemeral, perhaps wild, the world of the tale. Here we sense not only the child’s absolute vulnerability, but also her resistance, her refusal: ‘My dear, it seems / that to say is an admission / you don’t want to make,’ says one speaker to the child. The wolf is here, but as a threat that begins in the child because it is the threat of the adult world which harms by forcing the child to join: ‘One choice is to / not talk,’ writes Abraham, ‘Another / is to participate / in the myth-making.’ These poems participate, but by way of a careful and beautiful implosion.
Kristin Abraham is the author of two chapbooks, Orange Reminds You of Listening (Elixir Press, 2006) and Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus, the title poem of which appears in Best New Poets 2005. Her work has been featured in such national literary magazines as The Journal, Court Green, LIT, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Review Revue, Dislocate, and Rattle. She lives in Le Claire, IA and teaches English at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa.
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