"Iris, Messenger to the Gods" & Selected Poems


Iris, Messenger to the Gods: 
A Melologue of Laments, Blessings and Instructions
by Iris, Daughter of Zeus
to the Women of the Halfway House
by Maryclaire Wellinger
Song 1.  If I could
If I could
wrap you in a sari
of pink and orange silk
                   cool to the skin
so you walk with grace
through that vacant building
                       that dark space
where your father was knifed
in the back when he
                 won the card game,
and his best friend
came and told your mother
                 and your love froze
there at age 11 when your eyes
grew round to conceal
                  your fear and rage.
If I could rock you
in a sweet cocoon of song
                     with mandolin
so you sleep beyond the days
of the siren and the lights
                     when men come
with hypos in black bags to gather
your mother up like laundry,
                             strap her to
a canvas sling, slide her into
their white truck and ride off
            through the night haze.
For years to come,
                   slurrs your speech,
                   rolling off the tongue
                   on breaths of gin,
                  rocks your body
                  whipped by your lover's belt,
                  runs to Vegas     to Oakland
                                and back to Boston,
                  shoots a needle
                  through your skin,
                  oak-leaf brown
                  and oak-leaf thin.

Song 2.  The Scar
Sitting in the chair
on the torn rush seat
before the window
                      with your profile in relief
you turn your head
        left cheekbone streaked with sun
                     streaming in
                     above the pumpkin on the sill,
        your lips colored plum
                     opening to your tongue
                     with its shy speech.
Only the obvious scar
         slipping from earlobe to chin
                     is revealed,
         its white etch-mark
         repeating the imperfect arc,
         the inner edge
         to the flawed crescent
of the moon
        floating in the sky
        above your head,
        white and smooth and hard
        like a shard of pottery
        broken in the kiln
        at its first firing.

Song 3.  I Saw My Sister
I saw my sister
                         hanging on the corner
                         with two men,          addicts,
                         looking thin and sick,
                         shivering in a man's
                         jacket of red leather,
                         shifting from one foot to another,
                         restless         her sneakers
                         silently slapping the pavement.
I saw my sister
                        from far away at first,
                        like I have witnessed
                        a sunburst from deep space,
                        her body a narrow band
                        of vibrant light
                        erupting along a jagged edge
                        of flame            radiating ) ) )
                                      into emptiness.
I saw my sister
                        up close     when I brushed
                                        by on the sidewalk,
                        a speedball of coke and heroin
                                     spinning in her blood,
                        orbiting her heart
                               straining on its tilted axis,
                        her brain burning slowly
                                        like a young forest,
                        her eyes singed red
                        as she stood at the fire's periphery
                        and I was visible, she could see me:
                        "Who are you?" she said,
                        her words glowing weakly
                        like embers dying,   her words drifting
                        towards me on the breath of ringed planets,
                        her words disappearing,      into the cold air.

Song 4.  Emerging
Thrown from clay
           by the Creator's own hand
           the intended form
           explodes in darkness.
Out of that chaos
           in the combusting heat
           you are reborn
           from the dust of particles deglazed,
           a peculiar work of unique beauty.
And now
           as if a weighty iron door
           were flung open
           you emerge
           into the late October light.



More Iris poems to be uploaded soon . . . m-cw

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