Sept/Oct 1999 Poetry

Five Poems

by Teresa White


Field of View

Umber fields riven with tractor ruts
arch into the stubble of winter wheat
as fluted leaves of corn
play on summer's breath.

A figure noosed with cameras
genuflects in a field
to photograph a barn.
Its dark eye looks back.

No one watches the sun blister
the thatch. Not even cattle
resigned and motionless
see us pass.

I couldn't live out here with you:
I'd hoard the green and gold
currency of these hills
and be satisfied.



I gather driftwood,
old shoelaces,
my wedding dress for a sail.
I take fresh water,
a compass with its needle quivering.
Wind pushes me into the sun
igniting the rim of the world
then burning out.
Stars don't help:
not even the big bear growling
his little lights.
Out here I'll grow a tail,
forget speech,
find you in a fishes' cove.
I'll drag you home,
a human boy,
lungless, water-sick,



My heart is fallow
though you've thrown seed my way,
enticing me like a scarecrow

with your sewn-on eyes, lopsided
smile. Your arms flap and your
gloved hands reach out to me

but all is empty
on this worn-out piece of land.
For seven years my heart's

been picked by birds.
There is an order here.
The crops must be rotated every few years:

alfalfa, corn. Corn, alfalfa.
I can wait my turn.


Rag Cutting

I sat with Betty
at the steel monster six feet high,
a two-seater calliope with blades
on either side,
and felt like the princess in Rumpelstiltskin
with straw to spin
though we had a mountain of coveralls
to cut into rags before nightfall.
Cheaper than paper towels for the gas
stations that bought them,
we couldn't cut fast enough.
There was a science to it;
Betty taught me well:
off went the collars with a zip,
followed by the sleeves in two steps.
We cut the sleeves in half
before we cut the front from back.
The legs were next with just a few
steps and then we started over again.
I would have slipped and cut myself
but Betty kept me alert
talking all day about her old man.
"If I keep the dishes done and the bed
made, Harold will love me up two, maybe
three times a week," she said,
or "be sure and feed your man
red meat --it'll keep him sexual."
She was a newlywed at forty-five,
proud to share her advice with me,
down on my luck at twenty-three.
Day in, day out, week after week:
off went a collar, off went a sleeve.


Gardenias For A Beast

I bathe in bathwater
scented with mint
and wear gardenias on my wrists.
When I am clean
I come to you.

I am young as you wish.
You have the head of a bison,
the hips of a cowboy.

You charge over me
like a sad beast
clambering at a gate

Your eyes are frantic.


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