Guest Poet Sally Ingram

Wilkes Barre

Once at a family reunion
forgotten, shy and bored
I walked a line of hot gravel
which gave sudden way to a clearing, lush and green.
There was a plaster statue of Mary
in front of a bench. She was painted like
a prom queen--red lips, shiny blue eyelids
but her nose was crumbled, like a boxer’s flat mess of gristle.
And there was a pool there
not a smooth concrete bowl, curved and blue-white
this pool was hacked into the ground
a square, as perfect as a grave awaiting a coffin,
as if cut by someone who knew about coffins and death
but was patient enough in life
to hold back the wet clay, brick by painful brick.
The pool was empty now, but filled with ivy and curls of green mildew.
It looked noble, the way the touch of hands can give dignity to a pile of 
My father used to swim in this pool
with his mother and his brother
their heavy suits sagging with the water,
as sweet and flat as rain.
His mother with her thick body,
breasts and belly which grew in spite of scrubbing floors--
a senseless burden, for of what use could they have been? Her
husband dead, her life a list of jobs to be done
her spirit like a dead limb, cut off so her sons could live.
Did they know what would come,
my father and his since-forgotten brother?
Did they feel the weight of the future even then?
The wars, the silver rings brought back from the Philippines, 
her daily indignities, cleaning up someone else’s filth.
Did this make them play longer, 
give their laughter a flinty edge
as they held each other under--slippery bodies, 
eyelashes spiked around eyes soft with water--
did they feel what was waiting for them then?
I feel it in the heavy stones under my feet
in the space where the water once was
in the space that still remembers the water.

May, 2000

Sally Ingram's Questions:

I am concerned that there may be too much here.

I would like to focus this poem, yet at the same time provide more "space" for the reader.

How can I do this?

The Albany Poetry Workshop