Oct/Nov 2002 Poetry

Three Poems

by Duane Locke

Artwork by Tara Gilbert-Brever


Girls' Legs

I remember when the legs of girls
Who swam in pale orange ponds shadowed by gum trees
Were with their curves and knees
The most precious things I had ever seen.
Their ankles were like the silk tassels
Hanging out of the green husks of new born corn.
But when adults spoke about them,
These legs changed to something ugly:
something ugly as a tattoo.


Before the Voices

It was a day when the pines
Wore the sun as sleeves
Around their many green arms,
When green herons were the eyes
Of the pines that glanced down
On red clay ditches beside clay roads
And their black rainbowed-back beetles,
A day when the purple of the thistle
Leaped out of a gully's yellow streaks.
It was a day when the wisest of pigs
Wallowing in shiny mud interrogated
Sycamores and found out their seed balls were saints
Whose gold auras were inside and never seen
Until the wind rubbed its hands over their bodies
To turn the seed balls into golden birds.
The wisest of pigs learned that when
The seed balls of the sycamore rolled
It turned the earth into sacred ground.
This was the time when I was an isolated child,
And had heard only a few human words.



The circular fronds of ferns
Would unfold in my voice and become fern leaves.
This was in my childhood voice
Before I saw salt water squeezed out of sponge,
So the sponge could be used to wipe the dust
Off the painted lips of a plaster Madonna,
Off the curls of gutta-percha sweet angels.
I then would recline on gum-tree creek banks,
Listen to the voice of ferns. Ferns taught me
To love blonde sand, the shape and color of apples,
The water splashed by the leap of the dolphin,
Not the black plate glass of the tall buildings
Reflecting the hips of store-window dummies.


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