(poem from Robeson Street) – Fanny Howe
Pushing children in plaid & silver prams
us mothers were dumpy,
hunched in the damp
and our redlipped infants
sucked on their strange fingers
eyes stung by the gunny-strong
grass on the hills
I wanted to sit near sweet water, not salt
in the fuzz of extreme weather,
but we’re not here to
Like women who love the Lord on hills
what for what for, we cawed outside
as in bare trees, too plain to see
I have spent the past few weeks smitten and humbled by the work of Fanny Howe. This poem holds much of what I find fascinating in her work.
There is the touch of William Carlos Williams in the phrasing of the line “us mothers were dumpy” – some of that American language he prized so much.
Then there’s her way with the line, as in “but we’re not here to” – the way the phrasing cuts off the sentence at just the point where it has its meaning complete as well as visually plays out the concept of “we’re not here”.
In this poem about disappearance of sense of self, those last two lines swallow the people in the poem and turn them into birds – all of it done in careful phrasing. I turn the last two lines here over and over in my head to watch the meanings gleam and hold.