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Karen Alkalay Gut

SEASON | GRANDMOTHER RECONSIDERS HER KNITTING | THE EXHIBITIONIST IN HER BOUDOIR | THE HABITS OF OLD LADIES

A professor at the University of Tel Aviv, Karen Alkalay Gut has traveled widely and lived in the USA and UK. Among her many books are a biography: Alone in the Dawn: The Life of Adelaide Crapsey. [Athens: University of Georgia Press, December 1988.] Some of her books of poetry are are Making Love: Poems. Tel Aviv: Achshav, 1980; Butter Sculptures (Hebrew). Tel Aviv: Ha kibbutz Hameuchad, 1983. Mechitza. New York: Cross-Cultural Communications, 1986; Ignorant Armies. Tel Aviv: Tentative Press, 1992; Between Bombardments. Tel Aviv: Tentative Press, 1992; Love Soup. Tel Aviv: Tentative Press, 1992; High School Girls. Tel Aviv: Tentative Press, 1992; Recipes. Tel Aviv: Golan, 1994 Harmonies/ Disharmonies. Etc. Editions, 1994; Ignorant Armies. New York: Cross Cultural Communications, 1994; I/Thou and Other War Poems (Hebrew). Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad,1994; Paranormal Poems (Hebrew) Gvanim, 1997; Life in Israel -November 1995-1996 , Whistle Press, 1997.

SEASON

That day the doctor said I didn't need birth control any more
the porter carrying the neighbors refrigerator made eyes at me,
and you and I failed in our attempt to make love on the top
of the Y.M.C.A. tower because we were giggling too hard,
and I left a lipstick mark on Amichai's shirt,
wondered what his wife would think when he came home.

I thought, maybe next month at this time I'll be wearing a patch,
or maybe I'll be shaving off a mustache, or maybe
I'll have a belly out to here, big enough to rest my breasts on.
There will be no more children, I never thought there would.
But the chance of dripping nipples will not even be latent,
and I won't play at comparing myself with some beauty queen
and no man will ever love me again for my body alone.

GRANDMOTHER RECONSIDERS HER KNITTING

Protecting a child name
with a voluminous cape
was the first mistake ñ
an anonymous little girl
her face hooded
from human gaze
in the forest

And why red?
Shouldn't I have given her
a briar patch color
to maneuver
the enticing wood
knowing the wolf
was drawn
to the brightness
of little girls?

And why is she known only
by this garish robe
instead of her kindness
to her ancestor?
I should have had her called
"The one who defied
all innocence
for the sake of the author
of her camouflage."

THE EXHIBITIONIST IN HER BOUDOIR

If a tree
falls in a forest

And the blinds
are drawn

And the men in my life
and the dog
are sleeping

And I fling off
my clothes

to the tune
of music in my head

and whisper
to my imagined lovers

of all
they are missing

and need
to know of

who could say
I am not

the genius, the fulfillment
of all a reader dreams

THE HABITS OF OLD LADIES

Great-aunt Rochel
would lean over the bureau
to paint her pursing lips
and vow
she hadn't yet reached seventy.

My mother's voice
whispered to me
that her aunt
lied.

But she was so creative, so secure,
the first woman in my life
who wore makeup.

At her aging daughter's wedding
I was five, in my first long dress
(peach silk) and observed
how erect she was
and how she stood studiedly
in three-quarter profile,
anticipating response.

Under the fine gray gown she wore
a Charis corset, I knew, because my mother
fitted them, on her knees, pins
between her teeth, while leafed
through catalogues
of before-and-after dowagers,
women who made their image
from their dreams.

But it took fifty years,
when cousin Frieda reminisced
about World War I
and how Rochel made it through
by opening a tea house
for whatever soldiers
had conquered the town that day,
standing in profile
in the doorway
to draw them in,
that I realized her posture
in old age
was still intended
for those noble fighting men.

How did I know when I was three
to be so stirred by her

tenacious sexuality?

Copyright © 1997 by Karen Alkalay-Gut. All rights reserved.

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