Friday poem (Wednesday): The Purification of Space For Dorothy

14 04 2010

There’s grading, a lecture to polish, and oh, have I mentioned that my apartment is a mess? You know what this means, don’t you?

It’s poetry time!

No, this is not like my old habit of cleaning my apartment whenever I had statistics homework. Not at all. (Even if grading sucks as much as stats.) Anyway, cleaning’s a drag; poetry is pure pleasure.

The New Yorker recently had a review of Kay Ryan’s work, and I was thinking of using one of the poems from the essay—Wait, I think it was, or Waiting—but I decided against it, for one of the very characteristics the reviewer noted of her poems: They’re short.

Now, I  like short poems—most anything longer than 4 pages and my fingers itch—but I wanted something a bit meatier this week, more involved than 10 or 20 lines.

No particular subject; just something that would pull me down and hold me under for awhile.

This one isn’t long, not really, so it doesn’t take much breath; still, you live in a city and your breath does catch on people like this.

Liliana Ursu caught Dorothy with her words. (Translated from the Romanian by Bruce Weigl.)

The Purification of Space For Dorothy

She has hair the color of rust.
She wears a red dress
and three watches:
one for her daughter in California,
one for her daughter in New York,
and one for her sister in Scotland.
She smokes cigarette after cigarette.
She takes lithium and tells everyone,
“Love, and do what you want.”

She listens to the same play on the radio
and tries to convince me
that Ibsen is American.

“He was like me, of course.
He can’t be anything else.”

She has a lover who works for God, she says.
“I’ve never met him,
so I wear this red dress
so he will recognize me
and know I am the fire.”

I pretend not to understand her.
I pretend I’m in a hurry
when she asks me, almost silently,
“What do you do
up in your apartment:
do you laugh or do you cry?”
I would like to answer her.
I would like to take her hand with three watches
and caress her
as if she were an orphan,
but she is on fire.

Below our mailboxes,
each morning,
she leaves a cup full of coffee,
a pack of cigarettes,
and, near them, a card which says,
“Live your life in beauty.
I leave these so you may partake,
as if in the body and blood of Christ.”

When she meets me running up or down the
she says the same thing:
“Fly if you want, but don’t run.
God loves us all,
but those who fly he loves the most.”

Quietly, Dorothy with rusty hair
and dress red as fire
“Raspberries ripen only in summer,
only when I dream of my love,”
and she shows me her empty wallet.
“Everything I touch turns to gold,” she says,
“then into silver, then to tears.”



One response

18 04 2010

Wow. I feel like I just read a novel.

Dorothy’s going to stick with me, I think.

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