Monday, April 16, 2007


National Poetry Month: Another from Irene McKinney

(Now that I have your attention...)
Here's another from the wonderful Irene Mc Kinney, marking the move from the joy and innocence of the body to the attempt to transmit fear of it. It's also, I think, about the birth of the poet. It's from Irene's book, Vivid Companion.

Covering Up

When I saw that I would have breasts
and that they wanted me to cover them up
I took my shirt off and tied it around my waist
and stomped out into the yard.

I was so furious that no one stopped me;
not my mother, who thought that I was acting crazy,
not my father, out working in the hayfield,
not my brother, who thought that it was a game,

not my sister, who thought that I was acting out,
who thought I was crazy. I was crazy.
For three days I stalked around and stomped,
refusing to wear a shirt. They all said,

"Cover up," and to cover up made me feel weak.
I wasn't weak. I was damned if I'd pretend,
I was damned. They were two badges on my chest,
each of them saying, "This is me."

First the nipples plumped up and turned
from pink to dusky rose.
They were two eyes seeing things
my other eyes couldn't see.

Then they rounded out and ached.
They wondered what was going on,
getting ready for the long story:
nursing mouths, kisses, suckles.

Later, I would stand in the bathroom
with my arms raised painfully
while my husband wrapped a wet towel
tightly around them to bring down the swelling

of too much milk. Later, I would stand
at the lingerie counter and choose a black
lace bra. Later, I would change back
to white cotton. Later, I would burn them.

But that week, when I was thirteen,
I wanted it to be solved. I wanted it to be over.
I took a hoe from the shed and stood bare breasted
outside and beat the hoe to splinters

on the trunk of the maple. I knew it wasn't over,
but I was exhausted. I would have to enjoy
not covering up in secret. That's when
I began to speak in my head as the naked one,

and the other went clothed into the world.

That is so powerful.
I admire how in touch with her feelings she was and is.
I love that.

Now: who took my picture,dammit?
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