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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:

WATERMELON HILL

     “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:

MOTHER’S BASKET

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.

Opportunity lost,

only part of time is left

as an airplane scours

the eastern sky for hours.

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