Imparting the huge news in superstitious whispers,
smiling, serenely self-satisfied yet somehow sad,
fingers involuntarily feeling for quickening wombs,
declaring themselves officially ecstatic to be enceinte,
anything but ambivalent, husbands tumid with conceit,
yet underneath the paeans a hushed note of defeat.
They swell, consuming space and food, their gravity
growing ever more gravid like planetary giants
freezing in orbit devoted Ganymedes waiting on
their hankerings, mammoth goddesses of nonce-cults
processing through trimesters like stately fraught
argosies, doing everything the books say they ought.
Some sail into harbor, plus-size panoplies like
topgallants unfurled, of admiration sure, vaunting
and mansion-stolid, immune to all mischance;
others, like cats, seem driven to occult themselves
until the deed's done, turned inward as if seeing
some pristine way to love some pristine being.
Indulgence, sympathy, supportively mewing
over vanished ankles and multiplying chins,
never asking about the deep, the endodermic fear:
my duties are contradictory yet clear,
to admire without resentment, envy without disgust,
to feign sorority while they bear what they must.
MRS. PODOLSKI'S CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT
Certainty's the clothesline on which we pin
the wash of our unmentionable doubt;
the dubious laundry we take in to make
believe we're sure of what we're sure about.
Men love football and absolutes; they relish
games with the absurdest rules, disputes
furnishing their chief fun; what one gaily
asserts another merrily refutes
until they come convivially to blows
and end the evening bloody, arm-in-arm,
still wrangling over whether he was in
or out of bounds, fair or foul, right or wrong.
Men boast they need just the facts and the law
to transfix the truth and fill the jails,
to know who's responsible and what for—
but we women always need more details.
Men guillotine the past and future, shoot
snapshots; for us events are not discrete
like eggs lined up or artillery shells
but spill into a story; life's not neat.
Was it to lunch or dinner he asked her
out? Was it for
Friday or Saturday?
Did she aim to wound him by choosing that
dress, not phoning before she went away?
How did he feel about the man he shot
in the stomach, and did his mother love
him less than cigarettes, truck drivers, beer?
Did he mean it?
What can laws and facts prove?
You shouldn't be too quick to judge, my dear,
especially when you're sure you've all the facts.
Bear in mind that cut flowers must be arranged
and how the bird's tale differs from the cat's.
Elvira Bennet is an archivist living north of Boston. She has published fiction and poems in
a variety of journals as well as an essay called "Kafka and Girls."