Miss World by Heather Derr-Smith
Four in the morning in the Schwenkfelder Church yard.
The stars ripple and lilt, slits of light, talismans.
My grandfather could name them all, incantations
in his “gigger” bag, scraps of paper, folds and scrolls
of protection. “Between thought and expression
lies a lifetime” sang Lou Reed from the scratching needle
of the record player in my room. I remember my grandfather
as kind and often silent, (a reflection of my father’s face
as the form of my father slipped deeper into fog, his eyes
evanescent as mist) bent double under my grandmother’s
schizophrenia, carrying her into the apiary, into the orchard,
bearing it on his back every day. The weight of the world
in a woman. When I went to London, he wrote these words
in Pennsylvania Dutch for me to carry, a prayer or a spell
called Himmelsbrief or Heaven’s Letter and pressed it
into the palm of my hand. I don’t know if it did any good
but how he meant well, with what love he knew. I left it behind
in my lover’s room in Chelsea, the day I saw a photograph
of Francis Bacon in a beaded flapper dress, Eton crop in his fist.
The caption said his father had him horsewhipped by the stable groom
when the artist was just a boy. A bomb went off behind the BBC
van in front of the pageant, Angry Brigade. The air rang
in its socket of silence, and I lost all balance, lifting by my hair
so that my feet could not touch the ground and neither could I see
the sun. It was a long time ago, and we all lived
to tell the truth, all of our scripture vanished into the underworld
of our childhoods. I do blame them all, all the men, both the ones
who robbed us blind and the ones who mirrored kindness,
all of them made us suffer. I survived, blowing up the door
of my womanhood, mopping up the world with blood.
Now it’s dawn in the Swenkenfelder Church yard, nothing left of words
in this woman, burning from within like an arsenal lit,
unquenchable light of Heaven.
© 2017 Heather Derr-Smith
Heather Derr-Smith is the author of four books of poetry, Each End of the World (Editor’s Choice Award, Main Street Rag Press, 2005), The Bride Minaret (Editor’s Choice Award, University of Akron Press, 2008), Tongue Screw (Spark Wheel Press, 2016), and Thrust (Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award, Persea Books, 2017).
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