Castan: Three Poems
from The Widow's Quilt
| THIS BODY |
SOLDIER'S WIDOW: A GENERIC PHOTO
Castan, a native of Brooklyn, moved to Hong Kong with her six-month-old
daughter and her first husband, Sam Castan, when he became Asia
bureau chief of Look Magazine. He had reported from Vietnam
for three years prior to that assignment, but was killed only
six months after the couple made their home in the Far East. In
the time since, Ms. Castan worked as an editorial assistant at
The New Yorker, an editor at Scholastic Magazines and
as editorial director of Learning Corporation, the former educational
subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. She first began to write poetry
at the age of 40. While earning her M.A. in creative writing at
New York University, she won a teaching fellowship, a fellowship
to the MacDowell Colony, a prize given by the Academy of American
Poets and N.Y.U., and The Lucille Medwick Award from the Poetry
Society of America. Her poems have appeared in Ms. Magazine
and many literary journals and anthologies, including Anchor /Doubleday's
On Prejudice: A Global Perspective and Norton's The
Seasons of Women. For 20 years, Ms. Castan taught writing
and literature at The School of Visual Arts, a college in Manhattan.
She lives in Amagansett, New York, with her husband, the painter
Lewis Zacks. The Widow's Quilt is
distributed by Canio's Editions, c/o Canio's Books, P.O. Box 1962,
Sag Harbor, NY 11963. Phone: 631-725-4926. E-mail: email@example.com.
could use a merkin*
that estrogen has taken
thicket of bristles
wherever it has gone,
as it brought them glistening,
as whiskers when it came.
it would be better
place a pious cap
that little pocket of pleasure,
mini-version of the sheitl
old testament ancestors wore
cover their heads,
long glory of their hair
up out of sight, beauty
might tempt a man,
than their husbands.
this pubic wig, this merkin,
lure another while reminding me
the times I lost myself
those full-foliage days
a beloved's hand
to that tawny pelt
make me do anything.
nothing particularly kinky,
more or less than most
do with their bodies
sheer air for love.
I agreed with my doctor
menopause is a deficinecy disease,
drug you can take
ninety to stay dewy,
as my bones were lowered
their thin tent of skin,
mourner would slip
tampax in the coffin,
in case, like a food or wine
in the death vaults
believers in eternal life.
"Counterfeit hair for women's privy parts," 1796,
hold my mother in the bath
the way she used to hold
a plucked pullet in a tub of hot water
to ease out the last feathers,
stubborn ones at the tip of the wing,
at the base of the thigh,
where slippery skin covers and uncovers
a white hinge of bone. My mother's spine,
her rib cage, her winged shoulders
protrude like an embryo's
into skin the color of pale yolk.
the evening gowns of the '40's,
Rita Hayworth's lames
rippling over her sexy body?
Those were the costumer's glory days,
gold draped in loose folds
upon each hip. From a criss-cross
at the waist, gold puckering up
to each breast. 0,
the nightmare of my mother
in a slinky gown made of her own skin.
"This body," she says, "This body,"
the way you'd admonish
a naughty child or a disobedient dog,
expecting no immediate answwer.
"This body," already draped
in a shroud of its former glamour,
calls me forth
as it did the first time,
when the allure of its curves, its pheromones,
set to music my father's cries
and bid me enter
her body, my life.
WIDOW: A GENERIC PHOTO
widow always wears a black coat.
is cold in this coat even in summer.
is here to receive the flag.
is here to say hers is a small sacrifice
God and for country. Valium
the drug of choice for such occasions.
will not cry out. She will not collapse.
men, solid as a pair of bookends,
her and grip her arms.
wear dark suits or other uniforms.
is the theme of the eulogy,
if her husband chose to give his life.
she will sleep with the widow's quilt,
folded flag taken from his coffin.
© 1996 by Fran Castan from THE WIDOW'S QUILT. All