These poems are from Rebecca's forthcoming book Naked as Eve featured in this issue. "Naked as Eve" is forthcoming in November from Copper Beech Press and can be ordered from Copper Beech Press, P.O. Box 2578, Providence RI 02906.
Autographed copies can be ordered from author McClanmuse@aol.com
The book is paperback, $11.00 plus $2.50 shipping and handling. ISBN# is 0-914-278-78-9
For other titles at bn.com by Rebecca McClanahan
"Making Love" was first published in The Gettysburg Review and reprinted in The Best American Poetry 1998
"Teaching a Nephew to Type" was first published in Poetry
"The Apple" was first published in Georgia Review
"The Round Earth's Imagined Corners" was first published in Crab Orchard Review
Why make ? I used to wonder.
Is it something you have to keep on
making, like beds or dinner, stir it up
or smooth it down? Sex, I understood,
an easy creaking on the upholstered
springs of a man you meet in passing.
You have sex, you don't have to make it,
it makes you—rise and fall and rise again,
each time, each man, new. But love?
It could be the name of a faraway
city, end of a tired journey you take
with some husband, your bodies chugging
their way up the mountain, glimpsing
the city lights and thinking, If we can
keep it up, we'll make Love by morning.
I guess it was fun for somebody,
my grandmother once said. By then
I was safely married and had earned
the right to ask, there in the kitchen
beside the nodding aunts. Her answer
made me sad. In her time, love meant making
babies, and if I had borne twelve
and buried three, I might see my husband
as a gun shooting off inside me, each bullet
another year gone. But sex wasn't my question.
Love was the ghost whose shape kept
shifting. For us, it did not mean babies,
those plump incarnations the minister
had promised—flesh of our flesh,
our increase. Without them, and twenty years
gone, what have we to show
for the planing and hammering, bone
against bone, chisel and wedge,
the tedious sanding of night
into morning—when we rise, stretch,
shake out the years, lean back,
and see what we've made: no ghost,
it's a house. Sunlight through the window
glazing our faces, patina of dust
on our arms. At every axis, mortise
and tenon couple and hold. Doors
swing heavy on their hinges.
Teaching a Nephew to Type
Because you lag already
years behind the computer-and-
otherwise-literate boys with fathers,
and your handwriting is a tangle
the teachers have grown weary
of unraveling, and because you are as close
to a son as I can manage, though nothing
about you is manageable anymore,
I am teaching you to type. The trick
is to look anywhere but down.
Your fingers are dumb birds pecking,
just follow the chart I've made.
We'll begin in the thick of things,
the home row to which we'll always
return. Little finger on a. Then tap
your way next door to s. Now
you've made as. Don't think, I say.
Just watch the chart: dad sad fad
a flash a flask a lad had. Tomorrow
we'll move on to reach and return
and the period key, but for now
just use the comma, it's like catching
a breath, or you can type a colon,
double dot, old snake eyes, luck
in your future, meaning watch this space:
something is about to follow.
After you left, the old tom
browsed awhile in the closet,
sniffing what remained. You'd taken
only enough for one season,
as if your time with her would always
be summer. Outside a white rabbit bit
the heads off flowers we'd planted,
nubbed to their green beginnings.
He'll be back, everyone said. Back
is another season—what to do until then?
Empty the closet, move our bed
to a different window, watch
the ceiling fan stir the air
up, over, around, all those prepositions
teachers teach: at the table,
down the alley, out the door.
In bed I tried to pray but all that came
was God is a man and here I am
naked as Eve. It wasn't temptation
or Adam that laid her bare—
she'd been naked all along, clothed
in light. To ease myself I spoke
to the dark our ritual Goodnight,
I love you. Then like a child
who needs two voices I answered,
turning myself over—and
the pillow to its cooler side.
The Round Earth's Imagined Corners
Here in this retirement village the earth
takes its sweet time spinning.
It's summer, after all, and California.
My friend greets me at the entrance, holding keys
inherited from a daughterless old man
she cared for and finally loved. We pass
beneath a gargantuan globe, a bulging corset
of longitude and latitude on which are floating
seven blue seas and seven green continents
reaching out with isthmian fingers as if longing
to touch one another. In my mind
is an African proverb: I am poor
and I will die. You are rich and you will die.
Yards are littered with blossom—hydrangea,
hibiscus, the lethal oleander. At our feet, alyssum
and baby's tears, and stretching as far as we can see,
mass plantings of patios, terraces, chalets, villas
like the one where the old man lived out his days,
his body light in my friend's arms, bones hollow
and angled as wings. All day his wheelchair
circled the crowded rooms, navigating
Italian sculpture, French brocade, crystal that sings
with a flick of a finger, first editions of Milton
and Donne—at the round earth's imagined
corners, blow your trumpets, angels.
A woman waves from the doorway
of a garden home. A fig tree arches above her.
We are walking Via Mariposa, named
for what flutters one summer, at most,
and is gone. The avenue's perpetual curve
suggests one route looping this green place,
but I'm not sure until we meet twice, three times,
the same biker sailing the same hill toward us.
Like Magellan we discover the new world
through its repetitions, the past emerging
inch by inch over the horizon: helmet, reflective
vest, spokes and wheels revolving. The house,
the dog, our mother's hat, someone dying
in someone's arms. Oh yes, we've seen
that ship before, that same old sun.