Monday, October 28, 2013

# 103: Two Poems by Mary Zeppa

~This poem previous appeared in Another Chicago Magazine (1981).

Sweet Dreams


I speak to my sister
of orgasm
I speak to my father
of Proust
while Marlon Brando (as Stanley Kowalski)
is sitting beside me, his hand on my thigh.


These nights, I meet you
inside my dreams
dream lover of the long thighs.

Your wife doesn't notice
when you leave your body.
It still does the things that she likes.

All night, you bruise
the inside of my skull.

All night,
she fucks her blond doll.


Yellow begins.
My thighs are its flames.
Its light
fills those hollows,
my bones.  My skull
has been keeping
a secret:  this dark
is purple and warms.


~This poem previously appeared in Oxford Magazine (1990).

 Bible Stories


The pillar of salt that was Lot's wife
away at her touch.  What
was her name?  I can't seem to

remember.  Did they
ever tell us -- this weak,
willful woman

who needed to see
what she'd lost?


But the ark rode the waves out
for Noah, for Noah
and for that
narrow woman
who leaned on his arm.

She who stood
as the waters

pressed closer
as tigers pressed close
to the heat of her face.


The woman taken in adultery
probably wanted to go.
Lately, she couldn't

remember her husband.
Just the fur of his body
those black, clinging curls

she couldn't protect from
the tips of his fingers

that stripped moss from tree trunks,
stripped lichen from rocks.


Bending her dark head to bathe Him in perfume
her neck bare, her long spine
a penitent

she made herself nothing.
A vessel anointing.  A cool
sweetness flowing.  All black hair,
all myrrh.

Of “Bible Stories”:  When, almost 30 years ago, I wrote this poem, my first marriage was lurching slowly toward its inevitable end.  “Bible Stories” was one of many attempts to write toward understanding.  Though I hadn’t been inside a church in more than a decade, I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran. And the images that came to me, the stories that arrived, were King-James-Version Biblical.  I realized, after the fact, that the women in the four sections of my poem, were my stand-ins, each one coming to terms with her own version of loss. 
            Coda:  In 1994, my friend cantor and composer Carl K. Naluai, Jr., set “Bible Stories” to music for four sopranos and English horn.  I attended its inaugural performance with a fellow music-lover I’d been dating for about four months.
            Further coda:  In 1998, Cantor Carl K. Naluai, Jr. married us.

Mary Zeppa, born in Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1943, grew up in Homewood, Illinois but has lived more than half her life in Sacramento, California.  A singer and lyricist as well as a poet and literary journalist, Zeppa has been active in the Sacramento Poetry Center (SPC) since 1981; she currently serves as co-host of SPC’s Third Thursdays at the Central Library Reading series, co-curator of SPC’s library and its Principal Archivist. Her poems have appeared in a variety of print and on-line journals, including Perihelion, Switched-on Gutenberg, Zone 3, The New York Quarterly and Permafrost, and in several anthologies; the 2009 Kent State University Press anthology Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease includes two of her poems. She is the author of two chapbooks, Little Ship of Blessing (Poets Corner Press) and The Battered Bride Overture (Rattlesnake Press).  Zeppa, in collaboration with the Award-Winning Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, has been featured at three SPC Jazz & Poetry Live events.

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