Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This week, while researching the winemakers of the 2010 Winemakers Dinners for the October issue of the BVI Yacht Guide, I came across Stephen Tanzer's description of the Bouchard Père & Fils 2007 Chevalier Montrachet as having a finish “which opens like a peacock’s tail.”

Today, my friend Jean asked me for a copy of the first poem of mine she'd ever read, "One Week," so she could memorize it for class, and when I searched gmail for it, I used these two words: peacock pumps.

One Week

For one desperate week she wanted you,
To gnaw your cracked cuticles until they bled,
Then drain them dry, your bloods commingling. In bed
She conjured up your eyes as green, not blue,
And pleased, instead of pleading to undo
The spell she'd cast. Desire gave her head-
Aches, stirred her ovaries, made her hipbones spread,
Her spine stack, her toes curl inside each shoe.

You never knew. But I did. So I pissed
A ring around you to keep her out, disinterred
The local vampire, asked when she'd been bitten,
Wore the peacock pumps you couldn't resist,
Crossed off each day, not worried or deterred,
Reading her like a book that I had written.

First published in Poetry, November 2003

Here's a recording of Roethke reading "My Papa's Waltz," which was one of the first poems I memorized. This recording is pretty significant because when Roethke reads it, he stresses "you" when the meter dictates that it should be unstressed, emphasizing the pronoun and turning it into an accusation.

My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

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