Friday, March 21, 2008

"Body Parts"

This week's featured chapbook is Miss Molly Rockin' by the incomparable Maureen Seaton. This chapbook was published by Thorngate Road in 1998--the same press that runs the Frank O'Hara Chapbook Series. In the early years of that series, Jim Elledge also published the Berdache Series, of which this is the fifth title.

Maureen's work should need no introduction. When my own first chapbook was selected for the O'Hara Prize in 1998, I was extraordinarily touched to learn that Maureen had been the judge. I'd already read her books Fear of Subways and The Sea Among the Cupboards, but had somehow missed Furious Cooking. For years, her work has surprised and delighted me. It was a delight to finally meet her at AWP in Chicago in 2004, and to see Venus Examines Her Breast win at the Publishing Triangle Awards in 2005. Maureen Seaton and Jim Elledge launched my poetry career--if I can even call it a career--and I will always be grateful to them both for that.

Here's a poem from Miss Molly Rockin':


I’d never held the ashes of a dead man but I’d always wanted to
know a famous artist, so I reached out my left hand and she
spilled him into my palm. He was flame-white, his flesh dust,
he was tiny bones you could play with—they could be doll parts—
peaceful in my hand like light. I kept my hand open in case he
needed air and I knew it was not the essence of him but
nevertheless I whispered: Don’t worry, you’re safe with me. I
whispered: I love your paintings. This happened on the Upper
West Side in ’89 as the light changed over the Hudson, and that
light was in the apartment sliding on floor and walls as we
passed a dead man’s bones between us, weeping.

Once I spent a summer in Manhattan with a woman whose
desires were so unlike mine the air in the kitchen was sweetly
skewed. She told me: Pleasure, and I bent at the refrigerator
choosing the precise onion. I told her: Juice, and she stood at the
stove removing lemon seeds from basmati. We were perfect as
thumbs, we were starved and greedy as shorebirds, dipping
down, grabbing our food, devouring it.

Now I’ve begun to write “NO!” on my body parts, small cross-
stitched reminders to throw me back and hook another. Tattoo
on my right breast, sticker on my colon, scribble of bright blue
between my ovaries, hollowed now of eggs but still handy to
balance me out. The day I decide to go I’ll erase the words from
my body then disintegrate quickly like any dying fool, you’ll see
me rising from the shore—equal time lateral time—don’t hurry
into anything but love.

The man who lives in 4D sleeps above me every night in the
same rectangle of space, one floor up, beside the door, our
double beds appearing to the gods like open face sandwiches
with two chubby figures shifting and rolling in dreams or
trooping to the bathroom. Sometimes I watch Tai Chi on cable
at 6 AM because the man upstairs has jumped so hard from his
bed, and sometimes I sleep right through till 9 or 10, his footfalls
barely piercing dawn.

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