Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Lurie Distinguished Professor is . . .

In addition to all of these visiting writers, Sandra M. Gilbert will be on our campus the whole semester of Spring 2009 in an endowed professorship.

She's well known not only for her poetry but for her feminist scholarship, her memoir, and her teaching for years at UC Davis.

Here are two of her poems:

God, He Had a Hat!

Mrs. Rabinowitz is sitting on the beach with her little grandson, who is
playing in thesand with a pail and shovel when a great tidal wave suddenly appears and sweeps him out to sea. Mrs. Rabinowitz (shaking her fist at the sky): God, bring him back! Bring that little boy right back! Another tidal wave appears and deposits the grandson on the beach, next to Mrs. Rabinowitz. Mrs. Rabinowitz (after scrutinizing the child for a minute): God, he had a hat!

It’s the fifties and we stand in the doorway kissing,

suited in the decorum of our age,
shameless in ignorance.

Our betrothal kisses are small, soft,
nervous as rabbits venturing toward the yard
where the mastiff lunges on his chain and the chain

rattles its gravity across concrete.
But my nineteen-year-old
stance is gracious and wifely,

as if bidding an office-bound spouse goodbye,
although I feel the weird prod of your hard-on
poking against gray wool.

Goodbye, goodbye, sweetheart!
Goodbye to your graduate-student face,
your face of a young cynic that blurs as I kiss it!

Goodbye to your innocent almost-pompadour
(soon to be shaved in Basic by the 4th A.D.)!
Goodbye to the startled fur of your brows!

Past midnight, we’re through kissing, my father
waits in his fat chair, his haze of smoke,
and you dissolve into the vague hall,

the leafy sidewalks, the lit-up all-night
subways whose overheated cars
rumble into the dark like stage sets.

But now your hat swims back to me,
the one you’re wearing in the snapshot
just outside the honeymoon hotel—

gray felt, prematurely middle-aged,
with a brim stiff as cardboard and a crown
that was kind and crushable and soft,

soft as a peach to the touch. . . .

*

Chocolate

In the end, in the long-term
wing of the assisted living
home, in the small white chamber

looking out on the patio's locked-in
blooms or in the big plain
"day room" with its blaring

TV and hopeful posters,
they fed my mother
ground-up piles of pallid

stuff in bowls clamped onto
a plastic tray and at first
she smiled, delicious, delicious,

as she sucked the oozing
juices, the last pap,
smiling surrounded by fellow

diners drooping and mumbling
in their places until
after a while she tightened

her lips against the food and
instead began unknotting,
unknotting the flowered

gown, unclothing her wasting
nakedness still white and smooth
and then at the very end,

when dreamy and slim
as a teen she welcomed
old friends and relatives who flickered

on the walls, the curtains
of the tiny room, nodding,
hello, sit down, to the shiny

nothing, she'd eat nothing
but chocolate, only chocolate,
so every day I brought an oblong

Lindt or Hershey
and square by square
she took in mouthfuls,

smiling and nodding, square
by square, delicious, dear,
until she finally

swallowed the whole dense bar.
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