Carolyn Kizer

How It Passes - Poem by Carolyn Kizer

Tomorrow I'll begin to cook like Mother:
All the dishes I love, which take her
Such hours to prepare:
The easy dishes that are so difficult
Like finnan haddie and beef stew
"That I wouldn't be ashamed to serve a king";
Her applesauce, bread pudding, lemon sponge,
All the sweet nursery foods
That prove I had a happy childhood.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be brave like Father,
Now that I don't have those recurring nightmares
Of jackboots on the stairs, the splintered door
just before dawn,
And the fascists dragging Daddy out of bed,
Dragging him down the steps by his wonderful hair;
The screams as his spine cracks when he hits cement.
Then they make him brush his teeth with his own shit.
Though I know this is the price of bravery,
Of believing in justice and never telling lies,
And of being Benjamin, the best beloved.

I'll begin tomorrow. I'll learn how to work
Like my brilliant friends who speak in tongues,
Who drink and crack up, but keep on working,
While I waste my time in reading, reading, reading
The words of my brilliant and not-so-brilliant friends.
I promise to increase production, gather up
all those beginnings
Of abandoned novels, whose insights astound me
As I contemplate their fading paragraphs.
I'll reveal how ambitious I have been in secret!

There is plenty of time.
I'll find the starter button soon.
After all, young women are meant to meander,
Bemused by fantasies of future loves.
It's just that I'm so sleepy tonight, so tired…
And when I wake up tomorrow, I'll be old.
And when night comes tomorrow,
It won't go away.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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