Sunday, August 16, 2009

Poems from Terrance Hayes Workshop

# 1

Every evening my mother pulled her knitting

out of the basket behind her chair.

After the dishes were washed, leftovers shelved,

she sat with her metal needles

counting stitches, colored markers, pattern rows

as if ticking off time.

Like the Fates, she measured and spun.

My life could be counted by stripes

of mittens, hats, sweaters, blankets

created in her post-prandial meditations.

When she cut her final thread,

put away her last skein of wool

I felt as if my life too had ended.

Until I lifted her needles

took up the frayed yarn

and saw her hands reflected back

as I looked out the dark window.


There we stood, dressed like Egyptians

or what we thought Egyptians should look like

from so many National Geographic magazine

pictures we used as examples,

wrapped in old curtains, jewels, tulle,

prancing around like we built the pyramids

while life in our Ohio town

rolled by on its way to middle America;

men went to work at the refinery

spewing invisible gas and smoke in the breeze

women ironed shirts and watched television

but we didn’t notice the quiet turning

because we were too busy inventing pictograms

enslaving younger brothers in our game

of carving scarabs and conquering the desert,

ancient worlds so enticing because

the glossy pictures were so clean,

unlike the peeling paint from too much sulfur

the houses abandoned when factories closed

there being no room for Egyptian princes

or slaves or kings in this Republican county

known for its prized cattle, corn and soybeans.

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