For years all the arguments I carried on in my head were with you. — Adrienne Rich
Like any fox I survived my childhood by cunning and wit
but like any fox, I was at the mercy of traffic.
I kept to the verges of a house occupied by Mother’s beauty.
Her hair spilled into a dark satin pageboy. Her skirt
circled, perfectly round and white, and when I asked,
she laid it on the floor for me to see how it was made—
so much luster in that creamy sharkskin gathered
at the waistband. “Put it on, oh mommy, put it on.”
And she did and whirled, a blur of light. I lived in a house
with a handsome almost-father, with thick art histories
that amused me for hours—Ionic, Doric, Classic, naked
men and women—I’d never seen a real naked man
although I lay on the floor trying to peer up my stepfather’s
towel as he passed from the bathroom, steamy from the shower,
in his South-Sea Island tan. He caught me once
and I was shamed. “Never, never look,” my mother said. Never notice. I knew that and yet, I looked again into the dark,
an undress rehearsal for future lovers who were hunters,
who could do without amenities, who like a mother,
had a flair for sore dismissal, a capacity to send
even the most cunning animal back to her den.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Ozarks. She is the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks. She has published four chapbooks. The most recent is a mini-chap forthcoming from Platypus Press, UK. For more information, check her website www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.