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Denise Duhamel

(1961 / Woonsocket, Rhode Island)

June


The blue forest, chilled and blue, like the lips of the dead
if the lips were gone. The year has been cut in half
with dull scissors, the solstice still looking for its square
on the calendar. Perhaps the scissors were really
lawn mowers or hoes. Perhaps God's calendar is Chinese.
As first I didn't understand those burlap dolls
slouched in Central Pennsylvania craft stores.
Where were the button eyes, the tiny pearl nostrils?
the smudgy pink watercolor cheeks?

I enter the woods--part Gretel, part Little Red.
Such a small patch of sun makes it to the ground
through the leaves. The tree trunks are all elbows and knees,
all arthritis and gripes. The Amish think it's wrong
to render nature, quilts abstracting each pattern's name
of tree, buggy, corn, horse, farm.
My uncle, not Amish but superstitious, holds his palm
to the camera in a Christmas photo. Before she died
my grandmother ripped up all the pictures of herself.
She liked a novel with mystery, magazines without nudity.

The boy was killed by a drunk driver. My Amish neighbors
forgive. I prefer seeing it all, the snot, the optical nerve, the liver
behind the belly's skin. I prefer a good fight,
a wailing of grief. The Farmers' Market sells apples
as red as tricycles. The dolls without faces
want it silent. The forest, all anger and yesterday,
newspapers blank as white cotton sheets.
the branches, the teeth, the awful vees.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Friday, December 23, 2011

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Read poems about / on: christmas, pink, anger, tree, horse, red, grief, june, nature, sun, god

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  • Rookie S. A. S. (7/7/2013 11:20:00 PM)

    This poem really spoke to me, it's feeling of loss, of suppressed emotions, it's questioning of how to deal with grief. It's obvious the voice of the poem doesn't forgive so easily- is struggling with how to forgive, is seeing forgiveness as a glank face, a blank cotton sheet- yet the teeth are there, the awful vees. The lips of the dead if their lips were gone- cannot speak for themselves, and here we are in time- watching for a square on the calendar, what calendar God uses...the integration of fairy tales- children lost in the woods- and family members-who prefer mysteries/novels to the mystery/fact of their own identity- the poem is alive with detail and leaves me with a sense of loss, of not knowing, of no discernible answer- just odd little facts to pile one on top of another- even the optical nerve, the liver don't give answers...how to forgive? A matter-of-fact My Amish neighbors forgive. But along with the poet, I'm also taken by the teeth, the branches, the forest all anger and yesterday. ... I will be thinking about this poem.....I admire its tenacity. (Report) Reply

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