— Mary Lou Taylor
Oxen Hill, Maryland, left me depressed.
We moved into an upstairs one-bedroom apartment,
unfurnished, when Jack reported for duty
at Andrews Air Force Base. Lucky us, they all said.
A bed and a card table with four chairs I’d redeemed
with green stamps. Along with a recliner, all
the furniture we owned.
From the building next door a shaft of light
through the window kept me awake, dust motes
dancing, I counted them like sheep.
A glass of water would help. I walked into the kitchen,
turned on the light, and a legion of cockroaches
scattered across the linoleum floor, tan backs
disappearing into cracks and crannies. It took me
a day to find their real home, the step-on canister
in the corner holding trash. I scrubbed for hours.
Downstairs our landlord had a cerebral palsied child.
The girl would sit in her chair on the porch for the day.
I seldom heard her complain, but I heard her father often,
scolding her, berating her. Once he twisted her arm.
I never saw the mother talk to her daughter.
I may have been the only one
who ever smiled at that crippled child.
St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane.
Across our back fence its red brick tower.
The hospital covered a huge area, even had
a cemetery. Famous for its skill at lobotomies,
the campus collected brains, preserved them in formaldehyde.
And Ezra Pound was a patient. He left with his brain
intact, though some doubted that was so.
How I loved “The River-Merchant’s Wife.” If a madman
composed this poem, I longed to emulate him. I so admired
the hurt of paired butterflies, her dust mingled with his,
the monkeys’ sorrowful noises. Sometimes I heard cries
coming from the lighted buildings. Sometimes I imagined
Pound at a writing desk and fancied I would be the one
“to come out to meet you” as far as Cho-fu-Sa.