Monday, October 15, 2012

#54: Two Poems by Lisa Hammond

~This poem previously appeared in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (2011)

The Goddess Cleans Out Her Purse

Sometimes that bag just got too heavy, full
of papyrus scraps a thousand years old at least,
a dried-out chapstick, stiff old rabbit skin
from before tampons, buried deep just in case.

First she decided to throw out the sun—
she had enough fire to last, handful of stars
dusting the leather bottom dense as sand. 
She never really used the spear and shield.

Her cornucopia spilled fruit constantly,
but she’d need it later, she thought, digging it
out from underneath the moon and her phone.
Though she thought of starting over, emptying
everything, she finally just lightened her load,
ocean still pouring from that small torn seam.


~This poem previously appeared in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (2011)


She peels her own shrimp now,
tastes spinach, avocado, chickpeas,
dances when we aren’t looking,
hides notes away—I have butterflies—
but loses them later, hieroglyphic
glimpses into her newly secret world.
She is leaving behind straight trunks
of trees, the upright cypress, curving
like hills, a gentle slope for now,
just a touch of eastern piedmont
but she grows like a tall tale, girl
sweet-talking fish into her hand,
every storied afternoon a small epic,
her voice clear, still full of play,
a constant high-winged flight.
We watch her as though she leapt
every morning across mountains,
as if she unfolded from a bud today,
as if she might burst into flame,
remembering what we had forgotten.



I wrote both poems in 2006—which seems like a lifetime ago now.  “Eleven” was one of those rare (for me!) poems that leaps almost finished onto the page, while “The Goddess Cleans Out Her Purse” was literally full of extra baggage and took almost three years of cutting and rearranging and polishing to finish.  It’s always been hard for me to clean out a handbag. 
            At the time, I was studying mythology again and also reading a tremendous lovely body of poetry about mothers and their children.  Persephone and Demeter haunted me for a while, and sometimes still do.  I looked and looked at the Laussel Vénus à la corne, read about Brigid and Kuan Yin, tried to rid myself of the notion that to study and love these goddesses was a wee bit flaky. 
            I wanted—I needed—a hopeful vision of being a woman, a mother, a daughter, a goddess.  I wished and wished I had written Anne Sexton’s “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman.”  I read Louise Glück and Eavan Boland over and over again.  Without, perhaps, realizing it until later, I tried to ground mythic womanhood in the ordinary—how exciting it was when my daughter actually began to try new foods she wouldn’t have touched before, how many times I reached into my bag for some obscure object and could actually produce a screwdriver or a bandaid.  Our world felt tiny, self-contained, maybe in a Whitmanesque galaxy sort of way.
            Since then, my eleven-year old daughter has turned seventeen.  I still am awestruck by her and my son every day.  I took a little side trip to the Underworld myself and found the way out again. On the other side, I met and married a much more interesting man than Orpheus.  I finally finished a series of Goddess sonnets this year that I’m just beginning to send out.  And I’m still reading and re-reading Boland and Glück. 


Lisa Hammond is the author of Moving House (Texas Review Press, 2007), which won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize.  Her poems have appeared in Southern Poetry Review, Calyx, The South Carolina Review, English Journal, storySouth, North Carolina Literary Review, and Literary Mama, among others.  She is a professor of English at the University of South Carolina Lancaster.  To learn more about her work, please visit  

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