Sunday, January 18, 2009

Big Towns, Big Talk by Patricia Smith

Big Towns, Big Talk by Patricia Smith is not one of my favorites of this brilliant poet’s collections although it includes her superlative Skinhead. Nevertheless, the seeds of her brilliance are so obviously present it is impossible not to recommend this book. Poetry being a subjective thing, anyone who still suggests that slam poets are not writing legitimate verse need to slow down and read all of Smith’s works, perhaps reading from her first to most recent published to see how beautifully her roots have grown. One day, Patricia Smith will be asked to put together a collection of poems—a new and selected collection of her pieces. I will read and nod and smile at the expected. Of course, this and this one would be included. I will shudder at the reminders of almost forgotten others and the new ones will make me want to scream in ecstasy. And when I close the book’s cover, having finished the feast, I will wonder at the ones that got away, the few that didn’t make the final cut. I will begin revising her choices to suit my own preferences. I expect the collection I create by choosing my “best of Patricia Smith” would be less gentle than her own choices. Medusa
Poseidon was easier than most. He calls himself a god, but he fell beneath my fingers with more shaking than any mortal. He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders. I made him bend his back for me, listened to his screams break like waves. We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled, screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner. The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that. I'm sure I'll be hearing from her. She'll give me nightmares for a week or so; that I can handle. Or she'll turn the water in my well into blood; I'll scream when I see it, and that will be that. Maybe my first child will be born with the head of a fish. I'm not even sure it was worth it, Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman, losing his immortal mind because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight. Now my arms smoke and itch. Hard scales cover my wrists like armour. C'mon Athena, he was only another lay, and not a particularly good one at that, even though he can spit steam from his fingers. Won't touch him again. Promise. And we didn't mean to drop to our knees in your temple, but our bodies were so hot and misaligned. It's not every day a gal gets to sample a god, you know that. Why are you being so rough on me? I feel my eyes twisting, the lids crusting over and boiling, the pupils glowing red with heat. Athena, woman to woman, could you have resisted him? Would you have been able to wait for the proper place, the right moment, to jump those immortal bones? Now my feet are tangled with hair, my ears are gone. My back is curving and my lips have grown numb. My garden boy just shattered at my feet. Dammit, Athena, take away my father's gold. Send me away to live with lepers. Give me a pimple or two. But my face. To have men never again be able to gaze at my face, growing stupid in anticipation of that first touch, how can any woman live like that? How will I be able to watch their warm bodies turn to rock when their only sin was desiring me? All they want is to see me sweat. They only want to touch my face and run their fingers through my . . . my hair is it moving?

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