Feb. 6, 2003

The Maid's Story

by Howard Moss

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Maid's Story," by Howard Moss from New Selected Poems (Atheneum) and "Gorilla at Large," by Ron Koertge from Geography of the Forehead (University of Arkansas Press).

The Maid's Story

Between her leaving Cobh
And putting the kettle on
Each morning on the stove,
Twenty springs had gone.

A slow flutter of nerves
Told her the slow truth:
There was to be no love
In heaven or on earth.

She never could put the losses
In words, never could say-
When they asked, "What's the matter?"-
What was the matter. They

Were patient and impatient
Like the city she stared at.
She was lint in the clothes closet.
She was dust under the rug.

She stayed that way for years,
In between loss and loss;
Each night, she dreamed of a house
That was hers. It never was.

Then less and less mattered,
Each day was just each day.
Finally nothing mattered,
She opened her mouth to say.

Gorilla at Large

My mother isn't feeling well, so I tell her
I'll come over and we'll just watch TV.
What's on is Gorilla at Large, starring Ann
Bancroft and Raymond Burr. Since the operation
she's not interested in much, but this movie
has her sitting up in bed.

There's a cute guy with biceps, some blackmail,
and a murder. Ann flounces around in her skimpy
circus costume, Raymond gets jealous, the gorilla
leers and shakes the bars of his cage.

Mom is particularly tender-hearted these days.
She's been calling everyone whose feelings
she might have hurt. She's asked bitter
enemies to come to the hospital.

So she cries when the gorilla scrambles
to the top of the roller coaster and is shot.
But she hasn't got one kind word for
Ann Bancroft as she's led away to jail.

She gropes for the spot on her night table
where the cigarettes used to be, then gets
out of bed and shambles toward the bathroom.

"There was a woman like that set her cap
for your father once. I showed her a thing
or two."

It's the birthday of the archeologist Mary Douglas Leakey, born in London (1913). She earned her first money for drawings of stone tools, and was hired as an illustrator by the anthropologist Louis Leakey who then went on to marry her. Together, they excavated the remains of the earliest humans at Olduvai Gorge, in Tanzania. In 1978, she led an expedition that found two sets of hominid tracks, one large, the other small. They were more than three and a half million years old. About the tracks she wrote, "At one point, and you need not be an expert tracker to discern this, the smaller of the two stops, pauses, turns to the left to glance at some possible threat, and then continues to the north. This motion, so intensely human, transcends time. Three million six hundred thousand years ago, a remote ancestor -- just as you or I -- experienced a moment of doubt."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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