Thursday Poem

The Mother’s Seduction

—for Emily Dickinson

I christen you my mother, and you,
Like her, refuse to give straight answers-
She, silent; you, forever talking slant.

And I’ve exhausted all questions except
The one to which I am answer
And therefore cannot form.

You deal your words like blades or cards
And to keep the game mysterious
You won’t divulge the rules. I never win.
And if I come to you because much time
Has passed since my last meal, you tell a tale
About a crumb that you and Robin feast
Upon, leaving some for charity.

I know it is not true still I believe.

“There’s a pair of us,” you say, “don’t tell-”
And I will keep your secret much too long
Because the racket of this living shames
Me too. The guiltless are not innocent.
I want to lose this innocence, leave
All guilt behind, learn to live loudly,
Become someone, but you won’t tell me how.

I cannot live as you before me did.
It is another time, another place,
A different set of circumstances,
A different work to live.

We have no rest to give each other.
The leaves they turn and turn. With tenderness
I touch you out of sleep; I wake to your
Wild words: much madness is divinest sense.

We cannot reach each other now though I,
Too, dwell in possibility. Escape
Is on my tongue, still, I can no more run
Away from you than crawl into your arms

Constance Merritt
A Protocol For Touch
University of North Texas Press, 1999