Linda Gregerson  
















What is, says the chorus, this human
                 do you know the part I'm

talking about? What is this
                 desire for children?

has just left the stage
                 said my friend, ob-

scene) to brood on her terrible work.
                        His ety-
                mology is false, I've looked it up,

but my friend wasn't thinking
                       of children
                in any case. What

says the mother, for all
                      her books,
               who bathes the newborn child

in the sink, is sick
                     with fear
                for the pulse in the scalp, the foot

still flexed as it was in the womb
                     and peeling
                from the amnion. They have no death

in them yet, you see, their very excrement
                     is sweet,
                they have no death but what's implied

in the porcelain rim, the drain
                    with its food scraps,
                the outlet, the sponge, the thousand

mortal dangers in the kitchen drawer.
                    I'd sometimes feel,
               with the child in my arms,

as I've felt looking down on the live
                    third rail.
              What is this human desire

for children? They just make a bigger
              for the anger of the gods.


The thing she can't be rid of is that
                    no one
             would believe her. Not the uniformed

policeman at the edge of town (and surely
                    he knew her?
              the wildest boast of the census

could scarcely have amounted to
                    a decent
              row of pews on Christmas Eve),

nor her own forbidding father nor
                   good Emma
              at the kitchen sink. Months later

at the jury trial,
                   the word
              of a nine-year-old girl would suddenly

count. Late morning
                  on the third
              of May in 1929

(the other crash was yet to come),
                  no seam
             of comprehension in the ordered world,

no help from the mild
                 spring sky,
            my nine-year-old mother ran at last

to the dead girl's house and de-
           her burden of blight directly. Arrow

unwilling, whoever took pity
                on you?
          The rest replays in borrowed

light: the courtroom in Chicago with its
                unswept floors,
          two girls with their handsful

of violets. And one moving one way while the car
                bore down
          and one, my mother, the other.


For those who think, as he did once,
                that in-
          advertent suffering is the worst of it here,

in the range between hating thy neighbor
                and destruction
          on a global scale, the middle range,

where people live, the range
                from the hills,
          the journalist describes his con-

versation with a captured Serb.
               The boy --
          the man? -- was twenty-two.

I am happy, he said. He must
               have been asked
         what he hoped for or thought

while he lay in the high half-light with his
          a sniper in the frozen hills whose

angle on the heart and hearth's acute.
               I am happy,
          he said, to kill a child crossing

the street with his mother.

              Now something
          has been altered in the transit

from language to language; this isn't
          the way we speak. Offstage,

obscene, the god-from-a-machine
              at work.
         And circuitry whose other name

is "happy": coincident
         of never-on-this-good-green-earth

and ground-from-which-we-start.
             I am happy
        to kill a child crossing the street with his mother.

There is something so fantastic on the mother's face.



Magnetic North


The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep

Fire in the Conservatory