Word Cloud: WRATH

Photo by Larry Cloud

Photo by Larry Cloud

by Nona Blyth Cloud

There are some poets who have a universal appeal, whose hauntingly beautiful words we turn to again and again for succor and an uplifting of spirit.

Then there’s Diane Wakoski.

“This book is dedicated to all those men who betrayed me at one time or another; in hopes they will fall off their motorcycles and break their necks.” These words are right at the top on the front cover of my copy of The Motorcycle Betrayal Poems.

On the back cover, it says: “A fine poet, a beautiful woman, and – God knows what else.” – Edward Abbey. And also: “…..the voice of a woman who is not afraid of depths.” – Anais Nin

Diane Wakoski

from LOVE LETTER POSTMARKED VAN BEETHOVEN                                                                                                                                     for the man I love                                                                                                                                     more than I should,                                                                                                                                 intemperance being something
a poet cannot afford

. . .

I am too angry to sleep beside you,
you big loud symphony who fell asleep drunk;
I try to count sheep and instead
find myself counting the times I would like to shoot you in the back,
your large body
with its mustaches that substitute for love
and its knowledge of motorcycle mechanics that substitutes for loving me;
why aren’t you interested in
my beautiful little engine?
It needs a tune-up tonight, dirty with the sludge of
anger, resentment,
and the pistons are all sticky, the valves
afraid of the lapping you might do,
the way you would clean me out of your life…..

Poetry isn’t only about Beauty, Joy, and Hope, or Melancholy, Introspection, and Innocence.  There’s Rage and Treachery and Retribution in poetry too.

Diane Wakoski’s writing is lit like a bonfire with them, but she also bares her soul, which is full of Doubt and Self-Loathing and Fear of Abandonment.  Her courage in exposing All is a highwire act suspended above a seething volcano, always primed to erupt, but she is also Funny, Tender and Metaphorical.


My sister in her well-tailored silk blouse hands me
the photo of my father
in naval uniform and white hat.
I say, “Oh, this is the one which Mama used to have on her dresser.”

My sister controls her face and furtively looks at my mother,
a sad rag bag of a woman, lumpy and sagging everywhere,
like a mattress at the Salvation Army, though with no holes or tears,
and says, “No.”

I look again,
and see that my father is wearing a wedding ring,
which he never did
when he lived with my mother. And that there is a legend on it,
“To my dearest wife,
And I realize the photo must have belonged to his second wife,
whom he left our mother to marry.

My mother says, with her face as still as the whole unpopulated part of the
state of North Dakota,
“May I see it too?”
She looks at it.

I look at my tailored sister
and my own blue-jeaned self. Have we wanted to hurt our mother,
sharing these pictures on this, one of the few days I ever visit or
spend with family? For her face is curiously haunted,
not now with her usual viperish bitterness,
but with something so deep it could not be spoken.
I turn away and say I must go on, as I have a dinner engagement with friends.
But I drive all the way to Pasadena from Whittier,
thinking of my mother’s face; how I could never love her; how my father
could not love her either. Yet knowing I have inherited
the rag-bag body,
stony face with bulldog jaws.

I drive, thinking of that face.
Jeffers’ California Medea who inspired me to poetry.
I killed my children,
but there as I am changing lanes on the freeway, necessarily glancing in the
rearview mirror, I see the face,
not even a ghost, but always with me, like a photo in a beloved’s wallet.

How I hate my destiny.

Diane Wakoski’s description of her work: “It has been my obsession to try to see and understand the world truly…I am never satisfied with anything I see but must keep inventing and reinventing ways to understand it.”


Thank you for reading this week’s Word Cloud. Visitors and Comments Welcome.


SOURCES and Further Reading:

Love Letter Postmarked Van Beethoven from The Motorcycle Betrayal Poems  Copyright © 1971 by Diane Wakoski

The Photos from Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987 Copyright © 1988 by Diane Wakoski

Trilogy: Coins & Coffins (1962), Discrepancies and Apparitions (1966),The George Washington Poems (1967)  – Introduction Copyright © 1974 by Diane Wakoski

Word Cloud Photo by Larry Cloud

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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5 Responses to Word Cloud: WRATH

  1. I have not responded to this powerful piece until now, because it scratches the scab off a very raw wound. Long story short, it is the part of the Brandi Story I did not include in my tribute. That was the wrong place. My wrath is directed at some of the medical staff, and one nurse practitioner in particular. The nurse countermanded Brandi’s treating physician’s medication order, decreasing her pain medication drastically.

    Her pain level shot through the roof, and she laid in bed more than a day, screaming, “Daddy, please tell them to make it stop.”

    I have not yet been able to learn the FNP’s name. The Hospice physician quit working at the hospital. I was told this nurse was one of the reasons; he had trouble with this individual before, changing or cancelling his orders. I got a survey request from the hospital Hospice corporate headquarters. I am trying to get hold of the doctor to find out the name of this FNP. Then I will respond. I intend to publish my letter, so stay tuned.

    Wrath? I got it. Wrath as in the most memorable line from The Incredible Hulk TV series:

    “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

  2. wordcloud9 says:

    Chuck — I am so sorry that Brandi and you had to go through such an ordeal — no excuse for that nurse, NONE. Please do follow up — it will spare others from such pain.

  3. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley … boy, do I get your “wrath.” I had similar troubles dealing with C3-C6 spinal cord matters over 25 years ago…that persist to this day with medication. The spinal issues put me in a chair or wheel chair for 9 months. I had adequate pain medications, very powerful initially & was offered the same as follow on but knew I needed only to take the edge of, not get a buzz…I was still working every day sometimes 60+ hours a week….and needed to return to work. STILL a nurse or two would reduce it drastically, and some private pharmacists refused to fill the Rx due to the quantity, not the strength (Tylenol 3 with 600 mg of Motrin). One told me he knew more than the neuro-surgeons and PCP physician about pain. I blew up. The pain was debilitating if not edge reduced so I could think clearly. I finally had to go directly to the hospital pharmacy, where my physicians were, to not get hassled…and that is where I fill all Rx’s to this day. I even buy plain old Aspirin there. That said, had I experienced what you and Celtic Lassie did I would likely have gone violent…something I’ve managed to suppress now, almost, in most situations.

    PS: When you have the time, would you please re-post that photo of Celtic Lassie in the Stillman cockpit that you said was your favorite…or send it to me via eMail at aridog@comcast.net…I messed up saving it, but want it now. It is a beautiful photo of a beautiful child, reminding me of my own….and why I need to always be grateful for her. If it’s not too much trouble, thank you.

  4. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley ,,, As for the photo….I now have it, found it on Daily KOS archives.

  5. Pingback: A Poem for Mother’s Day | Flowers For Socrates

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