I haven't written a large number of persona poems but I feel that I should write more of them. There is something so freeing to step out of one's one ego and to speak from the voice of another. Strangely, or perhaps not strangely at all, what comes through are my own concerns made fresher. Paradoxically, I learn about a little more about myself through these other voices than I do when I write from my self-involved "I." Besides--they're fun to write!
Guide at The Norman Rockwell Museum
This time of year no entrance fee to pay.
The winter months we don't get many folk--
anyway no heater in the back.
Out there's so cold that we don't run
the picture show. Bound to freeze up if we did.
Let me show you a few of these I'm in:
that one from the Boy scout Calendar "The Rescue."
Nineteen-thirty-eight, New England Flood.
I was four so pretty, yellow curls 'n all.
The water up within an inch of the bridge,
me wrapped in patchwork in the boy scout's arms.
You can't buy one, all the prints are sold--
been sold for years; thank-you for asking though.
We used to have a figurine of it.
Guess things go-one way or another-
something always coming to take their place.
This one's my favorite: “Christmas Homecoming,”
it made the cover of “Saturday Evening Post.”
That was Jason, his eldest, coming home,
his mother, Mary Rockwell, hugging him.
That's me on the right, about thirteen I was,
and Norman standing proud as punch with his children.
Both dead now. How long? I lose track. Time goes
by fast as the neighbor boy on his bike
and don't come back. I'm fifty-five this year
and not ashamed to be, or to tell it to you.
Did I say this used to be a church?
Those scenes of Christ's life on the ceiling-
some unknown painter done 'em around
Nineteen hundred-a Frenchman wandering through.
Lots more out back. You'll find “The Four Freedoms”
up where the altar used to be. What's it like
To be immortalized, you say? Don't know-
Too busy living through these days I guess.
The Questions of Bluebeard’s Wife
What are these keys he gives?
What will they open?
What is the small one?
Where is the door?
Why is it forbidden?
Where is he going?
Why does he leave me?
When will he return?
Will he ever return?
Is this the right key?
Is that the door?
How shall I open it--
what will I find there?
Who are these women
who lie dead and bloodstained?
Where are the lives
that were lived in these bodies?
Where is the key?
(oh god, I have dropped it)
Covered in blood now--
how shall I clean it?
And won’t he know now
I’ve disobeyed him?
How shall I survive now
without his protection?
And where can I go now
with no where to go?
Who can I call on?
(my husband returns)
Surely he’ll kill me--
where are my brothers?
Road-dust hides the distance,
how can I see clearly?
Doesn’t time pass too quickly?
His fist grabs my hair
his sword’s raised above me?
And who can I call on
when there is no one?
Nightly his hands smooth my stomach, my sides,
all the small pulses beneath my skin.
His hands, soft as the gray pockets
I slip my silver in, and I try to forget
how all day they’ve been searching the flesh
of anonymous bodies, rouging cheeks, arranging spirals
of hair--as if death could be made beautiful, the way
as a young girl, I loitered with Ultima and Coral Bloom
for hours before the steamy glass,
preparing for the first love of my life.
From him I’ve learned how close to death, love is:
insensible rush of emotion, the sudden awareness
that no-one will ever again speak
with the exact accent of that one,
that no-one could copy the particular
shrug of those shoulders.
And doesn’t loss, whether from death or love,
comes to mean some part of yourself flown off?
Stripped of his formal black suit,
he is a white and luminous bird, his wings
folding and unfolding above me,
the shape of his feathers like knives
against the night forest of our bedroom.
"Questions of Bluebeard's Wife" and "Guide at the Norman Rockwell Museum" previously published in her chapbook, Lives of Others, Oyster River Press, 2001; reprinted by permission of the author.
Patricia Fargnoli, the current New Hampshire Poet Laureate, is the author of 5 collections of poems. Her latest book, Duties of the Spirit, Tupelo Press, 2005, won the 2005 New Hampshire Jane Kenyon Book Award. Her first, Necessary Light, Utah State University Press, 2000, won the May Swenson Book Award. Cold River Season, her new book, will be published by Tupelo Press in 2009. Most recently her poems are in Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, Margie, Salamander, Cimmaron Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review et. al.