Biography of Patricia Goedicke
Patricia Goedicke (June 21, 1931 – July 14, 2006) was an American poet.
Born Patricia McKenna in Boston, Massachusetts, she grew up in Hanover, New Hampshire, where her father was a resident psychiatrist at Dartmouth College. During her high school years she was an accomplished downhill skier. She earned her B.A. at Middlebury College in 1953, where she studied with Robert Frost. She also studied under W. H. Auden at Young Men's Hebrew Association of New York City in 1955.
She married in 1956 Victor Goedicke, a professor at Ohio University, where in 1965 she completed her M.A. in creative writing and poetry. She divorced in 1968, the same year that while an artist in residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, she met Leonard Wallace Robinson. He was a writer for The New Yorker and a fiction editor and book editor at Esquire Magazine. They married in 1971. The couple later moved to San Miguel de Allende in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, where she taught creative writing at the Universidad de Guanajuato. Goedicke and Robinson returned to the United States in 1981, and she became professor to the University of Montana, where she taught until her retirement in 2003.
Her awards and honors include the Rockefeller Foundation Residency at its Villa Serbelloni; a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship; a Pushcart Prize; the William Carlos Williams Prize; the 1987 Carolyn Kizer Prize; the Hohenberg Award, and the 1992 Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner. Her last book was recognized as one of the top 10 poetry books of 2000 by the American Library Association. The Tongues We Speak was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1990.
Goedicke died of pneumonia and a complication of lung cancer, at St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center in Missoula, Montana.
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Patricia Goedicke Poems
Either at my friend's daughter's sixteen-year-old body dumped on the morgue slab, T-shirt stuck fast to one ripped
You Could Pick It Up
You could pick it up by the loose flap of a roof and all the houses would come up together in the same pattern attached, inseparable white cubes, olive trees, flowers dangling from your hand a few donkey hooves might stick out flailing the air for balance, but the old women would cling like sea urchins and no children would fall. Even though it is small, the people are Greek, and it sits like an oyster in the middle of the Aegean still it is tough, it reminds you of wagon trains, prairie schooners drawn up in circles by night you could swing it around your head and still nothing would happen, it would stay solid, the white walls rising up out of the sea the pillared crown of the temple... For twenty-six hundred years it has endured everything, but now we who have forgotten everything, we whose homes have all gone to super highways, belt cities, long thin lines our glittering buses snort into the main square, the spider web with sticky fingers glues itself to the town, slowly it begins to revolve, faster and faster tighter and tighter it is wound till the young men cannot stand it, they pack up and leave town the sky is full of children with wild eyes and huge faces falling to the ground.
The Tongues We Speak
I have arrived here after taking many steps Over the kitchen floors of friends and through their lives. The dun-colored hills have been good to me And the gold rivers. I have loved chrysantheumums, and children: I have been grandmother to some. In one pocket I have hidden chocolates from you And knives. Speaking my real thoughts to no one In bars and at lecterns I have told the truth Fairly often, but hardly ever to myself. I have not cried out against the crimes of my country But I have protected myself, I have watched from a safe corner The rape of mountains, the eagle's reckless plunge. Ever since high school I have waved goodbye to history: I have assisted you to grow In all ways that were convenient to me. What is a block vote against steam shovels? My current events teacher was a fine man But his moral precepts were a put-up job and I followed them. Well-dressed, in my new Adidas At every gathering I investigated my psyche with friends And they investigated theirs with me. But whenever Trouble came in the front door I ran out the back And fell into the pit of my bones. Escaped from those burning buildings, the past, What balance can any of us hope for? I was comparing lipsticks The day Nagasaki vanished. The day Solzhenitsyn disappeared into the Gulag I was attending a cocktail party. Perhaps there are only ashes in my handbag. A man at the corner of Broadway and Forty-Second Street Tried to sweep me into a trash barrel and I almost agreed. Already the dried blood was sifting along my wrists. Already my own hands Were tightening around my throat But Sorrow saved me, Sorrow gave me an image Of bombs like human tears watering the world's gardens. How could I not answer? Since then I have been planting words In every windowbox, poking them to grow up. What's God, That he should be mindful of me? Sometimes I feel like wood Waiting for someone to peel me. Indeed I have been lukewarm At heart, which is all that matters. Of tiny bread-colored atoms, Equal fragments equally dispersed That love each other and are never hungry. What have I ever ignited That warmed anyone? I have not followed the rivers. Dangerous as a pine needle Packed in among others, in the dense multitudes And dry timbers of the West I am afraid of greed, The rich taste of it, the anger Hidden in my pockets. Columns of smoke on the horizon, Pillars of green fire. But I have arrived here somehow, Neither have I stopped talking. Numberless are the kitchens I have sat in, Chewing my fingers, trying to say something, Anything, so that the daughters of men should see As many sides of themselves as possible. Word after word my footprints Have stumbled across deserts. How should I escape them? They keep following after me. A little wind stirs itself, Whisks across my eyelids, And I know what it is before I say it: What if the world really articulates itself In the socket of a human knee? God save me From the swamps of hubris but it may be, it may be. Before the idea, the impulse. I feel it moving in me, it is there Arthritic but still powerful, a seizure Delicate as grasshoppers, a light Gathering in the skull. Between thumb and forefinger And the ballbearing joints of the tongue In soft, glottal convulsions Out of no alien skies But out of the mind's muscle The hieroglyph figures rise. The little histories of words Cannot be eaten. I know it, you know it And the children... But the images we make are our own. In the cool caves of the intellect The twisted roots of them lead us Backwards and then forwards. If only we could understand What's in our pockets is for everyone! I have a dictionary in one hand, a mirror. Strangers look at themselves in it, Tracing the expressions they use From one family to the next They comfort themselves, murmuring The tongues we speak are a blizzard Of words like warm wool flying: In the shy conjugal rites Of verb, consonant, vowel, In the dark mucosal flesh lining The prismed underside of the skin Each one is a spark sheared From the veined fleece of the spirit Of the looking-glass body we live in. It is the one I have been cherishing, The one all of us speak from, For the world as we know it moves Necessarily by steps. Breath, pulse beat, ten digital stops. At the foot of the mountains I look up. Does God Lift up His hand to cover them? Blinded by tears like rain My bones turn granite, the spine of the hills congeals them. Where is the eye of the storm, Or where is the center of my seeing? The wind of my breath is a hurricane: I am locked inside myself. Painfully, up the bald stepladder I climb, But sometimes the light in my head goes on More like the sun than a match. Just as they said in Arabia There's a huge pantalooned angel swelling Inside the body's glass jar. The white-haired thread of steam From the teakettle on the range whistles And sharpens itself into a voice Bodiless as history, invisible But still whispering in ears That keep trying to hear it. It is as if midgets were bellowing their names Down sets of cardboard cylinders. But we have not disappeared Yet. My friends, we have said many things to each other In new combinations, seed upon seed exploding And blossoming in kitchen gardens. I confess I am ashamed of myself: I have not tried hard enough to understand Or listen to you speak. But the Word is mindful of itself And always has been. Littering every street In the sly eyes of tin cans, Drops of water in the gutter The world looks back at us From every known language: Yoruba, Hebrew, Chinese, Arrogant English, the subject Subjecting all to its desires, Even the softer tongues, romantic Self-reflexive, done to As we would be done by, Whatever life we cultivate Out of the animal moans of childhood It is all wheat fields, all grass Growing and being grown. With poisoned bread in my pockets, or gumdrops, Or armies like Myrmidons rising What I say is true For a time only, thank God, If I have only arrived anywhere it is to look Carefully, at all I thought I knew. In living rivers of speech The reflections I make are my own And yet not: Though the old growth rings are hidden from us And the echoing tomorrows of the acorn, The warm currents of the senses Are a two-way street, my friends: The palms of our hands are crisscrossed With as many intersections as a leaf.
The Reading Club
Is dead serious about this one, having rehearsed it for two weeks they bring it right into the Odd Fellows Meeting Hall. Riding the backs of the Trojan Women, In Euripides' great wake they are swept up, But the women of the chorus, in black stockings and kerchiefs, Stand up bravely to it, shawled arms thrash In a foam of hysterical voices shrieking, Seaweed on the wet flanks of a whale, For each town has its Cassandra who is a little crazy, Wed to some mystery or other and therefore painfully sensitive, Wiser than anyone but no one listens to her, these days the terror Reaches its red claws into back ward and living room alike, For each town has its Andromache who is too young, With snub nose and children just out of school Even she cannot escape it, from the bombed city she is led out Weeping among the ambulances, And each community has its tart, its magical false Helen Or at least someone who looks like her, in all the make-up she can muster, The gorgeous mask of whatever quick-witted lie will keep her alive At least a little while longer, on the crest of the bloody wave, That dolorous mountain of wooden ships and water In whose memory the women bring us this huge gift horse, This raging animal of a play no one dares to look in the eye For fear of what's hidden there: Small ragdoll figures toppling over and over From every skyscraper and battlement hurtling Men and women both, mere gristle in the teeth of fate. Out over the sea of the audience our numb faces Are stunned as Andromache's, locked up there on the platform Inside Euripides' machine the women sway and struggle One foot at a time, up the surging ladder Of grief piled on grief, strophe on antistrophe, In every century the same, the master tightens the screws, Heightens the gloss of each bitter scene And strikes every key, each word rings out Over our terrified heads like a brass trumpet, For this gift is an accordion, the biggest and mightiest of all, As the glittering lacquered box heaves in and out, Sigh upon sigh, at the topmost pitch a child Falls through midnight in his frantically pink skin. As the anguished queen protests, the citizens in the chorus wail Louder and louder, the warriors depart Without a glance backwards, these captains of the world's death Enslaved as they are enslavers, in a rain of willess atoms anonymity takes over utterly: as the flaming city falls On this bare beach, in the drab pinewood hall The Reading Club packs up to go; scripts, coffee cups, black stockings, Husbands and wives pile into the waiting cars Just as we expect, life picks up and goes on But not art: crouched back there like a stalled stallion Stuffed in its gorgeous music box is the one gift That will not disappear but waits, but bides its time and waits For the next time we open it, that magical false structure Inside whose artifice is the lesson, buried alive, Of the grim machinations of the beautiful that always lead us To these eternally real lamentations, real sufferings, real cries.
In These Soft Trinities
Whenever I see two women crowned, constellated friends it is as if three birch trees wept together in a field by a constant spring. The third woman isn't there exactly, but just before them a flame bursts out, then disappears in a blurred, electric shining that lifts my hair like an animal's. In an aura of charged air I remember my poor mother turned into royalty, my sister and me in bobby socks endlessly, all summer long calling each other Margaret Rose and Lillibet, Lillibet, Lillibet, pretending to be princesses... Now, swollen into these tall blooms like paper cutouts in water, in each new neighborhood garden always, two women talking nod their three curly heads together: with bits of dirt on their foreheads, speckled iris, flaming poppy in the backyard dynasties of the multiflora it is the famous funeral photograph of the Dowager Queen, Queen Mother, stunned Young Queen, three stepping stones in marble that haunt me forever, clear and mysterious as well water, the weight of it in a bronze bucket swinging powerfully from my hand. As the plumcolored shadow rises, full as a first child in the orchard, the lost gardening glove on the path, the single earring tucked in an odd corner of the purse and then found here double themselves, then triple: in these soft trinities the lives that begin in us are born and born again like wings. Secret as doves scuffling in the wide envelope of wombs like loose, comfortable aprons flung over the heads of friends leaning together in the hum of earth's plainsong like a three part round, like a single voice murmuring the dream never leaves us, of the self like a three masted vessel still voyaging: out of the long matrix of memory, the royal bulbs in the hold, the ballast that keeps us upright, loyal to the dark, deep-bedded throne of the old country each new soul claims as its own.
The Hills in Half Light
Or will we be lost forever? In the silence of the last breath Not taken The blue sweep of your arm like a dancer Clowning, in wrinkled pajamas, Across the sky the abrupt Brief zigzag of a jay... All night the whiteness And all day. Once we have been lifted up Into empty morning like ice In the darkness of these white fields Neither the ghost tracks of skis Nor steel skates will wake us Where are we looking for each other, separated On the opposite hillside I see you Miles away from me, a dot Of faint color reddening, small bruised warmth Opening its cranberry mouth and saying, What are you saying? * Under a cold blanket An immense loneliness stretches In every direction with no fences. A few sticks tweak the crusted snow: Thin remnants of an army Of lost soldiers. I see footsteps ahead of me but whose And where will they lead me, parallel Or converging? Is it not possible there will be one jet trail That will not vanish, Two phantom ribbons unfolding That will not feather themselves away? * Wrapped in our white parkas In what shifting laminations, snowflakes That mean nothing, transparent eyes spitting, What glacier will we choose to lie on, In what igloo rest Barely breathing, in an air pocket Just below the surface Rustling beneath blizzards Where is your foot, most beautiful With blue toenails I will be looking for it always Wherever it is, next to me In the darkness Of rumpled white sheets, Pale siftings, clouds Sudden scarves of ourselves gusting Loose, sandpapery as snow lifting In what chill citadel of ice crystals Will I find you?
Danger of Falling
The way calcium grows all by itself into bone, microscopic fraction attaches itself to fraction or clouds crystallize, or blizzards congeal into hard ice on aluminum wings, even the astronauts' bodysuits can't cover up the sheer strangeness of it, the extraordinary being-here or anywhere, the skin of the plane could easily peel back like an ear of corn and then what's to be seen but who, me? the live, disintegrating, terrified Barbie Doll asks, stuffed into her jeans like a stick of butter, her neat, pointed feet dangerously stuck into sky... but still, teetering down the aisle if anyone bumps her she glares, This Is My Territory, this little packet of a hundred and twenty-two pounds more or less says Move it, Babe, one minute the cold kitchen, next minute Miami Beach, digging into the sand beside the violent- ly green sea, droplets of Almighty coconut oil under the crisp tang of salt drizzle and lick all over its bare, lusciously bronzed congregation of too too solid— No! Never in this world, the greedy molecules hiss as the plane turns inland, the woman returns to her seat past all the other anonymous collections of cells, some snoring, some fussing with their kids, one bent over a laptop, another staring straight at her for a second, with X-ray exhausted eyes peering, then swiveling away as if they'd known each other before, fellow crew members from another planet, though the woman thinks of herself only on Main Street—my my what an arrangement of chromosomes collected who knows why—up here among streaked, boiling clouds with the plane speeding through them, how unexpected it is, how far the body travels from its babyhood, locked in its charged circuits she thinks about edges, the leathery sunburned skin flaking off, in filmy shreds, sound barriers breaking away from her but here she still is for this one second fixed, eyes sticking out of the top of her face like the glint of a buried pin or the beak of a mother robin in the nest she made for herself: with earth losing its outer walls twig by twig, what is this naked fork quivering in the middle of Whose consciousness she keeps wondering, whizzing across the face of an electric cloud chamber, here all I am is falling, in the tight ship of the diminished, in hot chips of pure ignorant energy fizzing around some magnet, some lucky iron only imagination can count on, trembling, gritting her teeth on the thread of an end she can't know, Please, Someone, materialize me in arms I can love always she whispers to herself, Beam Me Up...
Luggage first, the lining of his suit jacket dangling As always, just when you'd given up hope Nimbly he backs out of the taxi Eyes nervously extending, like brave crabs Everywhere at once, keeping track of his papers He pilots himself into the home berth Like a small tug in a cloud of seagulls Worries flutter around him so thick It takes him some time to arrive And you wonder if he's ever really been happy: When the blue eyes blur And stare out to sea Whether it's only a daydream Or a long pain that silences him In such gray distances You'll never know, but now Turning to you, the delicate mouth Like a magician Is curious, sensitive, playing tricks, Pouting like a wise turtle It seems he has a secret With the driver, With the stewardess on the airplane So that even when he opens his arms When the warm voice surrounds you, Wraps you in rough bliss, Just before you go under Suddenly you remember: The beloved does not come From nowhere: out of himself, alone Often he comes slowly, carefully After a long taxi ride Past many beautiful men and women And many dead bodies, Mysterious and important companions.
In These Soft Trinities
Whenever I see two women
crowned, constellated friends
it is as if three birch trees wept together
in a field by a constant spring.
The third woman isn't there
exactly, but just before them a flame