Sunday 18 June 2023

Five Poems by Jeanette L. Miller

 





FIRST SNOWFALL



My window forgets the pattern of snowflakes when,

once they’ve touched the glass, they

disappear. The Snow Queen

propels her sleigh into the village square, her beauty

the intellect’s chiselled perfection. Void

of emotion, she separates a child from the others, reasoning

they share kindred hearts, his pierced

by a fragment of mirror

that reflects only the world’s ugliness. My mirror

isn’t changed by what it reflects but I am

shaped by what comes before me. During

my academic years, if it weren’t for my childlren,

I would have turned to ice. The Snow Queen

doesn’t comprehend that the child

she kidnapped carries a memory

rendering him still capable of bearing human love.




MY WHITE DRESSES, HER RED SHOES


1)

Before I could be baptized, I had to recite,

in order, the names of all the books of The Bible

in front of the congregation and answer

all the pastor’s questions to

assure him and the congregation

I’d internalized the doctrine. I’d borrowed a white, silk dress

from my cousin. Its skirt

billowed above the surface of the water like

a parachute, like a soul. The cleric

lowered me under. My immersion brought tears

to my mother’s eyes but I didn’t find meaning

in the ritual even though

I’d passed the test, a perfect score

by rote. Years later I walked down the aisle

of the same church

where I was submerged, wearing another white, silk dress,

to repeat what the minister said.

I promised to honour and obey. Rote again.



2)

To honour and obey, she was supposed to

wear black shoes to her mother’s funeral. Instead

she wore red. In those shoes

her feet couldn’t stop dancing. As she danced

the old wives clucked

in disapproval, their envy crusting

like rust on a coffin’s vault. The eyes

of portraits on the walls of the church glared in condemnation.

The old wives weren’t the ones

who eventually punished the dancing girl. She

cut off her own feet, believing

this would stop their movement and

absolve her of guilt. Detached, they kept on dancing.




A CRONE SPEAKS FROM THE FOREST


I wasn’t going to roast that boy, the oven

a metaphor

of my womb and in it: Hansel, in foetal position.

Incapable of conception, I obsessed about filling my body

with the flesh of a child. Why

                                                  wasn’t it Gretel? Her

naivety took me back to my girlhood, the forest

                                                  my place to hide. I built

my cabin of biscotti logs, twice baked for strength

and roofed it with gingerbread, its scent especially

pungent wet after a rain. And



the candy decorating the entrance? Its sugary confections

substitute for lack of sweetness in my life. I

                                                    can break off a piece any time

                                                    I crave something tangible I

                                                    could put my tongue to.

 


ME, MY AUNT & COUSIN, MY MOTHER, MY GRANDDAUGHTER as well as THE PROVERBIAL STEPMOTHER, & SEVEN LITTLE MEN WHO REPRESENT ASPECTS OF THE MASCULINE UNTIL THE PRINCE ARRIVES



I must have been six or seven when Aunt Harriet

took me and my cousin, Connie to see

my first movie. When the queen

appeared on screen, wearing her black turban like a helmet,

the close-up

of her blood-red mouth flapping like the wings

of a frightened bird, I crawled under

my red velvet seat. The cement floor

was cool. I was safe in the dark

but returned when Snow white sang the prince,

on screen. My mother

had programmed me to believe

my primary goal in life was to marry, defer

to my husband, and that was enough.

My granddaughter, Pauline, objects to the prince

kissing Snow White without her consent but I

object to the forthcoming harbinger of obstacles: Snow White

was made to wait

for an other to bring her back to life.




TWO GRANDMOTHERS PLUS MY MOTHER



The little match girl struck a match, then another, finally

the whole bundle she’d failed to sell that day, New Year’s Eve

on Earth. In matchlight

her dead grandmother arrived, reaching out her hand,

saying, “Come home. You don’t belong here.”


My grandmother (She died 50 years ago.) is always sewing

at her treadle and, as she pedals, she remembers me. When I turned twelve,

she was the only one who hugged me, pressing my face to

her flowered-fabric apron, its bibbed front

covered with flour. I’d open my eyes to thin lines

like miniature road maps between her ample breasts and crevices

in her skin snow-scattered with talcum.


The match girl returned to the place where

my mother longs to travel

when she begs, “I want to go home!” With dementia

she transports herself in and out of

the present, not wanting to be here now.


The match girl’s return began with just one match. Must we live

close to dying to receive that kind of illumination?

Jeanette L. Miller - Holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and published UNSCHEDULED FLIGHTS in 2019. Her poems have appeared in Phoebe, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Caesura, Main Street Rag, The Blue Mountain Review, among others, and are forthcoming in The North Dakota Review.

2 comments:

  1. These poems are like a breath of fresh air; I love their uniqueness.

    ReplyDelete
  2. THANK. YOU, PAUL

    ReplyDelete

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