Three Poems By Gwen Hart

Isn’t It Something?
 
What is it in my face, my hair, my walk
that’s reminiscent of Harriet, Genevieve, or Ruth?
All the old men want to stop and talk
 
about their sweethearts, the ones they shared malts
with, or their sisters’ friends, who soothed
their hurts somehow. My face, my hair, my walk
 
are ordinary, but still, they stop and gawk.
You look just like her—Mary, from Duluth!
It’s always old men. When they stop and talk,
 
their eyes light up with warmth and shock,
as if they’ve found the lost fountain of youth.
Isn’t it something? My face, my hair, my walk
 
are scrutinized. What is it that’s unlocked
the past? Then, I know you can’t be her—the proof
so clear, so cruel it stops them in their tracks—
 
the ever-present ticking of the clock.
Finally, I recognize the truth:
It isn’t something in my face, my hair, my walk,
but—I’m the only one who’ll stop and talk.




To My Children
 
Your best quality is that you don't exist--
you're zeroes, goose eggs, blanks on every form.
You'll never be cursed, never be kissed
 
goodbye, never twist up your faces and fists,
never yell, "I hate you, Mom!"
(Your best quality is that.) You don't exist,
 
and so you can't be quantified. You resist
speculation. You'll never raise alarm;
never rage or curse. A kiss goodnight, the kiss
 
of death--it's all the same to you. Just as I've wished,
in the coming apocalypse, you can't be harmed.
Your best quality is that you don't exist.
 
When people tell me all the joy I've missed,
I think of you, and I feel wholly calm.
You'll never need. Never be cursed--or kissed--
 
by lovers. You won't feel a thing, blessed
and bodiless. There's nothing here to mourn:
Your best quality is that you don't exist.
Darlings, this is my curse; this is my kiss.




Alzheimer’s Ghazal
 
The radio is talking nonsense again. I've never gotten
into the big band ballads, but they are all she's not forgotten.
 
Moments drop away like paper airplanes: the blouse
on the ironing board, the pan on the stove, forgotten.
 
She powders her nose, brushes red nail polish across
her lips, what nail polish has to do with hands forgotten.
 
The contours of her girlhood hills, the corral, the pump,
the outhouse, the banjos and barn dances, forgotten.
 
Her diamond ring stashed in brown paper in the ice box—
the packet thrown away, the wedding band forgotten.
 
The thread of every conversation stretches and snaps,
on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand forgotten.
 
The first chapter of the book, how to twist the crochet hook,
the name written in the coat she can no longer button up, forgotten.
 
Cleaning out the house, we stack the last scraps--dresses embroidered
for a China doll, handwritten potica recipes--all but forgotten.

Gwen Hart teaches writing at Montana State University Northern. Her second poetry collection, The Empress of Kisses, won the X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize from Texas Review Press.

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