I can tell by the way my mother chews her toast
whether she had a good night
and is about to say a happy thing
She puts her toast down on the side of her plate.
You know you can pull the drapes in that room, she begins.
This is a coded reference to one of our oldest arguments,
from what I call The Rules Of Life series.
My mother always closes her bedroom drapes tight before going to bed at night.
I open mine as wide as possible.
I like to see everything, I say.
What’s there to see?
Moon. Air. Sunrise.
All that light on your face in the morning. Wakes you up.
I like to wake up.
At this point the drapes argument has reached a delta
and may advance along one of three channels.
There is the What You Need Is A Good Night’s Sleep channel,
the Stubborn As Your Father channel
and random channel.
More toast? I interpose strongly, pushing back my chair.
Those women! says my mother with an exasperated rasp.
Mother has chosen random channel.
Complaining about rape all the time
I see she is tapping one furious finger on yesterday’s newspaper
lying beside the grape jam.
The front page has a small feature
about a rally for International Women’s Day—
have you had a look at the Sears Summer Catalogue?
Why, it’s a disgrace! Those bathing suits—
cut way up to here! (she points) No wonder!
You’re saying women deserve to get raped
because Sears bathing suit ads
have high-cut legs? Ma, are you serious?
Well someone has to be responsible.
Why should women be responsible for male desire? My voice is high.
Oh I see you’re one of Them.
One of Whom? My voice is very high. Mother vaults it.
And whatever did you do with that little tank suit you had last year the green one?
It looked so smart on you.
The frail fact drops on me from a great height
that my mother is afraid.
She will be eighty years old this summer.
Samhita's post "The sleepwalking defense?" and David's "There’s no escape from your husband", made me think, again, of Anne Carson's poem "The Glass Essay", and the bit of encoded argument, recurring, excerpted above. I know a man, a family guy, who raped a woman while "sleep walking." The guy's walking around today, "awake." The rest of us? What comes in poetry? And who listens? Is it really much of an argument? However old it is, when will it stop. Like I said, some things make me think, but some things make me sink.