After “Harriet and Lizzie”

After “Harriet and Lizzie”

for Robert Lowell

Admit that you looked into my heart before
You were born, Harriet, and I’ll admit
That Mother never wanted me out of her clasp.
The tears I never shed hounded
And drowned her like her liquor.
My old flame, who would guess
I could write a poem for a wife?
I yanked her verbs like hair
That summer I smashed her
Face in my toy car—but believe you this:
I never drowned those kittens
Like Jean said. Harriet, believe your Dad.
Just be glad that you’re a lady.
Don’t read too much, and Harriet, read to yourself.
I’m working this summer at Harvard,
You should see how the students hog
the halls yawning, you never heard
such name dropping, dirtying
the pages with their thumbs, forging
Milton and Donne. Admit it, Harriet,
admit it, admit it, admit it, alright,
I’ll admit it, I was glad to see their parted
patted numbskulls—but Harriet:
Aren’t you glad that you’re a Lady?
The scary bull backed dykes who carry
Their signs across from Harvard Park
Remind me of the linebackers I once dropped.
Lipless, unkissed, brontosaurs,
Tree-trunked, baldheaded, braless.
Lacking everything else
I lost in the last twenty or so years.
I swear my ear is losing it’s ear.
Chalk it up, to the excess lithium
Draining your father’s brain
of epinephrine and dopamine.
My maniacal right’s arm’s a wing.
Admit that you liked my monologues
Seven hours long, at least, admit
Admit that you listened,
to Hitler’s hammer, stutter, stammer,
Caliban’s yowl, Cato’s howl,
Don’t you know by now, Harriet,
How hard it was even to hold you?

© 2001


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