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Four Improvisations on Ursa Corregidora.

After Gayl Jones
 My husband Mutt backhanded me down the fire escape out back a
blues bar called Happy's
 . Nothing holds a family together like irony and a grudge. Depends on
what you call family. What's left now of the generation I
hadn't known I made is just a scar squoze shut like a mouth that
won't eat, a score where doctors had to retrieve the fetus, its tub
and my plumbing altogether. Now I'm soundproof, and now I'm
forever hollow as a plaster statue. Just as I can't go back to
where my mothers cast me out to flatter their memories chiming, echoing,
braiding the wind with their eccentric melody, Mutt can't come back
to me no more. I can picture him though harassing the shadows of my
voice, drunk as a judge.
My husband Mutt handled the hose that doused the fire, the reason I
can't make babies. I've claimed the blues is a current like
electricity, but mine was a combustion engine cutting shapes out of
noise. Lying at the bottom of those stairs I could already feel my
machine slipping into pictures of still water. I began swallowing
watermelon seeds by the handful hoping something take root: a vine, a
silence. I was reborn at the crime scene; I survived the rent in time to
look back on it squeezing shut like a fist. A refrain: echolalia: bad
penny: menses. Evidence of a pattern we are determined to reveal when we
find ourselves standing before the judge. Evidence of the devil
we're determined to reveal when we're testifying for the jury
and the judge.
My husband Mutt stared back down the barrel of his years, came up loaded
and hapless. I was determined to take him in spite of my history, to
refrain from adding to the pattern emerging from the rueful chorus: my
mothers cast me as amanuensis to record their versions of the crime.
Once upon a time means once and for always and for wherever you are and
now I'm singing blues in a bar revealing as much skin as you should
be willing to reveal when you pouring your seed into the electric
element. We are given two names: one to work like witness protection,
and one to carry mechanically to the grave. I never took my
husband's name. I imagine that would be as useful as a newspaper
covering my head in the rain. Useful as letting my eyes be the judge.
My husband Mutt handed me back all the love he felt I had failed to give
him. That's saying something close to nothing. "Do nothing til
you hear from me," he said, and smiled. Whoever owns these blues is
a matter of some debate. The story of my people unfolds each day like a
newspaper detailing the catechism that connects me to history: Are you
hurt?
 Yes, I am the hurt, the silent mouth is the barter. What's a
husband
good for? Seed money. Generations working the fields. Why
 do we make dreams?
 A little ritual. A little lining for the purse. Each song is a number
of the seven veils: each number is a revelation of skin measuring
degrees of distance from the crime and from the guilt of the crime.
Corregidora: as much kin as we're willing to reveal lest we be
judged. 


GREGORY PARDLO is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received additional fellowships from the New York Times, the MacDowell Colony, and the Cave Canem Foundation. His first book, Totem, was selected for the APR/Honickman Prize. He joins the creative writing faculty at George Washington University this fall.
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Title Annotation:three poems
Author:Pardlo, Gregory
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:708
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