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10. smith sisters



i.


i could have known you, 
sylvia.  i, too
saw the smith
catalogue, brown maple
leaves like the fall of your 
birth, october girl
in boston, back forty-two 
years.  we could have been
smith sisters: i know you mentored
freshman girls, as well
as mademoiselle and seventeen
girls with your life stories.
i could have chosen your
small women's college,
just what i wanted : small, women's,
"being born a woman is my awful tragedy."


ii.


you were so intense, sylvia, so
driven by your A's and economics,
so ridden for never having stopped
to rage your
ariel anger into the red
morning of your father's grave --
your mother's piano.  you
never fought, my wishful smith
sister, the blue tide of
a father's distance, as drained 
blood is drawn from the extremities
to the heart, and a mother's tongue,
her tide wall also a lasso.
if you knew, perhaps
you, too
would have burned like a phoenix, enraged
would have bowed to this series of 
<'s in front of this
1, this diminished equation's
answer.


iii.


i came to stanford, sylvia,
lured by name and pressed by sea,
palm trees replacing oaks
academic-cramming still the same.
half-way like you, i
felt the dog bones of
madness clicking in my brain.
star student, i could not
but fall.
     the many men, too,
nights like pebbles
on a river bottom, one in awhile 
would enchant me, like a snake
sliding underneath its prey.
i could not but slip.
     you knew how to 
make an exit, streamers 
shining, defiant
and beaded with sleeping pills; i took 
a side step, off stage,
leave of absence.


iv.


men have their influence here, sylvia,
as they did there: solid and models.  my writing
is my arrow, smith sister.



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