MIRIAM BIRD GREENBERG
The Old Order
Cantanker runs in both forks of my family tree
and what we fight over is memory’s false
cavern, a cenote filled up with rain. Now why
would you let that dog in the house with you,
my grandmother says, of a shadow slipping in
as I shut the door. Don’t lie to me. In the desert
once, she had come upon death
sitting on a log to nurse her child. My grandma
was hungry, no food all day and her water bottles
were empty. Death had seen it in her--
drew from a shivering canvas bag
a snared rabbit, slit open its belly with a penknife.
Each inside a blood-veined veil lay three fetal rabbits, slick
fur and eyes shut, smaller than walnuts,
and she offered them to my grandmother. What should
a woman do once she’s laid a dish of meat in the hall,
sat up half the night and forgotten why? She wears
her vanity like a fur collar; denial, a horse’s flank
shivering suddenly at a fly bite. Whistling St. Louis Woman
is sometimes the only thing she can do
to keep intruders at bay. She did not shit in my bed.
With a paring knife in the dark kitchen she begins flaying
a banana. She spits it onto her plate, offers it
a moment later to anyone, her assembled young.
118 The Paris-American
Miriam Bird Greenberg's work has appeared in Poetry, Ninth Letter, and the Colorado Review. She's the author of two chapbooks, All night in the new country (Sixteen Rivers) and Pact-Blood, Fever Grass (Ricochet Editions), and has held fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the NEA, and the Poetry Foundation. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and teaches ESL.
Next week's poet:
Mark Damon Puckett