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
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
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