Too much like myself,
it listens critically.
Edits, though seldom rereads.
In the margins: here incoherent.
Like me, it mumbles.
The more I "Speak up, girl!"
the less it says outright,
wants in fact to not say.
Contrary to belief, the word diary
means undivulged; clues trail
the pages and the trail breaks off,
scent's lost. Wandering is
the only way out of this place.
Yet the helpless subjugation
to the daily task,
the need for trysting-place,
love for the white-hot page
that drains the wound, seals it.
I know the heroines of the craft—
the small-town wife, the clear some,
cloudy some fretful refrain
in her doubtful second marriage;
Jane Carlyle's war with crowing cocks.
To whom? To me. They write to me.
From pages hidden in the covered wagon,
"I said nothing, but I thought the more."
(But in a letter home:
"We are at the mercy of a madman.")
Missing, Fanny Kemble's account
of the night she fled upriver.
How to confide the footsteps of a shroud
under your window in the night?
The denials, the costumed felons
lurk in your wakings, nervously
pressing mustaches over their teeth.
Why are those scuds of gulls
hanging over the swamp today?
I, splashing, choking, struggling,
sinking in self-sight—
Oh, that little straw!
By Eleanor Ross Taylor
Recipient of the 2009 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize
Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press
from Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960-2008 by Eleanor Ross Taylor.
Copyright © 2009 by Eleanor Ross Taylor.