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across the tenement valley
to her friends pulling
laundry off the cross-cut line
A block away, hogs hang
from steel question-marks
Guts pour from gashes in their bellies
spill over workers’ shoes
fall between the floor slats into
Bernadette, Madge, Belinda
in the chopped syllables
of neighborhood women
unable to inhale enough breath
to exhale their words
without choking on the stench
Hogs from Chicago
shriek in the corrals
day and night
crammed tail to nose
fat round bodies
squeezed into ovals
Pound the laundry
rinse water pink
Morning through night
the air stinks
In light, darkness
the river weighted with hog blood
settling like flatulence
in an airtight room
Time to cut loose
the slaughterhouse choke
on the throats of
Bernadette, Madge, Belinda
on the children wheezing and coughing
Dismantle the hogs
Dismantle the bowels of the slaughterhouse
blind Miller’s River
bloodshot red stare
Every evening, hundreds of workers
with hands they can never wash clean
tuck children under the covers
warm their cheeks with marbled palms
in the black and white of night
trace the shape of sex with their lovers
Who can wear red lipstick
wrap Christmas in its colors
cook tomato soup
knit a sweater, strands
of red wool?
The color of blood money
pouring into a vermilion river
is the color of
the wide pink head, the scarlet tongue
is the color of
his flame-red bloodshot eyes
Denise Bergman is the author of "Seeing Annie Sullivan," poems based on the early life of Helen Keller's teacher (Cedar Hill Books, 2005), which was translated into Braille and made into a Talking Book. Her poems have been widely published. She conceived and edited "City River of Voices" (West End Press), an anthology of urban poetry, and she was the author of "Keyhole Poems," a sequence that combines the history of twelve specific urban places with the present (which received an award from the Cambridge City Council). Denise was poetry editor of "Sojourner, A Women's Forum," and hosted a cable TV show "Women in the Arts." She received several grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Puffin Foundation, and her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An excerpt of her poem, "Red" is permanently installed as public art in Cambridge, MA. Her website is www.denisebergman.com.
All here are waiting for a storm
rising up the coast on the weather
channel, huge, ominous. Everybody
is buying milk, jugs of water
expecting the power to wink out.
In summer the air grows heavy
before the thunder and wall
of water. But today the sky
is serene powder blue, sun
striping tree limbs golden.
The birds are busy eating.
The snow can kill them.
There’s still residue from
the last one, fuzzing plowed land
with a kind of white fungus
that crumbles in the hand
by now, more like old plaster
than snow. Branches sway
languid metronomes back
and forth. Grey squirrels leap
from branch to branch as if
speed could keep to sea
the foot or more predicted.
It will lock us into our houses,
Vanish roads. Knock down trees.
Make us know how fragile
our bodies are, how fast
blood can cool and curdle,
that we survive northern winter
only if our tools allow.
Marge Piercy has published 17 poetry books, including “What Are Big Girls Made Of,” “Colors Passing Through Us,” and most recently, “The Crooked Inheritance,” all from Knopf who recently brought out her second volume of new and selected poems, “The Hunger Moon.” She has written 17 novels including “Woman On The Edge Of Time,” “He, She And It,” “The Longings Of Women” and, most recently, “Sex Wars,” now in Harper Perennial paperback, as is her memoir “Sleeping With Cats.” Schocken published “Pesach For The Rest Of Us: How to make the Passover Seder Your Own,” and Leapfrog brought out “So You Want To Write,” co-authored with Ira Wood and now in its second, enlarged edition. A CD, “Louder We Can’t Hear You Yet,” contains her political and feminist poems.
“What possible choices do most of us have in the air we breathe and the
we must drink?" - Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light, 1988
"Women with the highest exposure to the pesticide DDT, have four times
the breast cancer risk. "
- Mary S. Wolff et al, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1993
“Our data do not support the hypothesis that exposure to DDT and PCBs
increases the risk of breast cancer."
- David J. Hunter et al, New England Journal of Medicine, 1992
She grew up eating berries beans apples and peas and stuffed her bra with socks
She grew up eating grapes and greens, and on TV, breasts sold beer and cars and
musk perfume, jeans and jewels and junket tours, breasts and chests
and marketing plans, these golden globs, these silken globes
It sinks in early this thing with breasts, sinks into her
through apples coated with poison, poisons sliding down her throat
to her breasts, spreading like fingers along the milk route
Breast cancer, they tell her, we have to cut it off, they say, and they do,
and someone is singing chest bust bosom tits chest bust bosom tits
And they talk to her of fitting her for a fake one, No one will ever know, they say.
Know? she says, I want everyone to know, I want to run up and up the streets
calling to women wearing prostheses, to yank them from their chests, to scatter
them on sidewalks, let everyone see us one-breasted women, millions of us
How long are we going to go on killing women, she says, a chant, how long,
a prayer she murmurs as she slips in and out of sleep, killing women, her kidneys
giving out, her liver giving out, yellowing her skin, leaving her itchy, scratching
at her flesh, longing to get out of it and on to a world that makes some sense
And in her deathdream, breast cancer researchers collect the tossed prostheses,
trade them in like used bottles for gold from corporations who made millions
from all the cars from all the beer that breasts sold
Frances Payne Adler is the author of five books: two poetry collections, “Making of a Matriot" (Red Hen Press) and “Raising The Tents" (Calyx Books); and three collaborative poetry-photography books and exhibitions that have shown in galleries and state capitol buildings across the country, and in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. Most recently, Adler co-edited “Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing," (University of Arizona Press), which won the 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Award for Anthologies. Adler is a professor and founder of the Creative Writing and Social Action Program at California State University Monterey Bay. She now lives in Portland and continues to teach on-line for CSU Monterey Bay.
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