When I heard the news that the History Theatre was bringing back the play, “Watermelon Hill,” I revisited my poem that provided the play’s title:
“Close the door and never look back. This is finished for you now.” -Sister Marie Dolores
After she got herself in trouble, they sent her
away to Watermelon Hill, which was not really
its name, but what the boys yelled to the swollen girls
who were to come due at that home for unwed mothers.
A crucifix glared from the roof.
Laurel Taylor was not her real name.
What was real was absolved by Mother
Superior with a flap of her cloak.
Under the Immaculate Heart of Mary
was posted a litany of daily chores.
Miles of buffed linoleum, bars on the windows,
Doctor Crutchfield on Wednesdays, jelly jars
filled with vitamins. The tables were set for forty
or so, depending on who was in labor.
The tuna casseroles smelled like bleach.
Girls back from the hospital sat on donut pillows.
Days passed and the moon sickened.
Laurel Taylor, on her horrible cot with the stars
moving inside her, tried to pray.
It was best to give up your baby, not see or hold it.
It was best to place your baby, make a plan for it.
Laurel Taylor tried to pray in the chapel,
her cardigan sweater open like a gate.
She fought to be good, to give her blood to some
nice family, to cleanse a child from her name.
Laurel Taylor tried to keep the monsters away
but under some god’s baleful eye, they rose
in a spine-cramping pain that was only the start
of the tearing off.
She lost her son in that war. Wading in water,
being able to see her feet again, she knew there would be
no anointing, no Extreme Unction.
After signing the surrender, she knew
the penance is fault and the loss is eternal.
And here is the poem that was featured in the recent Poet-Artist Collaboration at the Crossings Art Center in Zumbrota, MN:
After the rain, in her green bean days
Mother hung sheets in the yard
clasping an arsenal of wooden pins
between her brand new dentures.
After the sheets, Mother weeded
the potatoes and peas
her back curved like a turtle.
She knew nettle, knew how to avoid
conflict and not rock the boat.
Keep your nose clean, she said, and,
it takes two to make an argument.
In her realm of sweat and pickles
Mother believed in things.
In the harmony of Monday wash
and Tuesday ironing. She knew how
to ask St. Anthony to find her keys
and that things should be done
because she said so.
Mother whipped through crosswords
as quickly as folding a basket of clothes.
Words were easy. It was time that was hard.
After the gravel driveway was paved, after
she broke her arm and the doctor taped it
to her soft body, after the garden was seeded
for grass, Mother watched a riotous sunset
as if she were seeing it for the first time.
She saw apples and cinnamon rising
like a pie and peapods wriggling along
the tree line.
Lastly, here is a poem that examines every poet’s favorite subject: time:
PART TIME WORK
I only work part time.
The rest of it is spent
wishing for more.
While I wish, time
melts in the summer sun,
trickles into the street
and is washed down
the gutter with crumpled
leaves and gum wrappers.
My valuable time is now
in the company of sewer
rascals including rats,
that scrabble through pipes
like sand in a rainstick.
only part of time is left
as an airplane scours
the eastern sky for hours.