In These Soft Trinities

By Patricia Goedicke 1931–2006 Patricia Goedicke
Whenever I see two women
       crowned, constellated friends

it is as if three birch trees wept together
       in a field by a constant spring.

               The third woman isn’t there

exactly, but just before them a flame
       bursts out, then disappears

in a blurred, electric shining
       that lifts my hair like an animal’s.

In an aura of charged air I remember
         my poor mother turned into royalty,
               my sister and me in bobby socks

endlessly, all summer long
       calling each other Margaret Rose

and Lillibet, Lillibet, Lillibet,
       pretending to be princesses...

Now, swollen into these tall blooms
       like paper cutouts in water,

in each new neighborhood garden
         always, two women talking

nod their three curly heads together:
       with bits of dirt on their foreheads, speckled
               iris, flaming poppy

in the backyard dynasties of the multiflora
         it is the famous funeral photograph
               of the Dowager Queen, Queen Mother, stunned Young Queen,

three stepping stones in marble
         that haunt me forever, clear
                and mysterious as well water, the weight of it

in a bronze bucket swinging
                  powerfully from my hand.

As the plumcolored shadow rises,
          full as a first child in the orchard,

the lost gardening glove on the path,
                   the single earring tucked

       in an odd corner of the purse and then found

here double themselves, then triple:
         in these soft trinities
                  the lives that begin in us

are born and born again like wings.
       Secret as doves scuffling

in the wide envelope of wombs
                like loose, comfortable aprons flung

over the heads of friends leaning together
       in the hum of earth’s plainsong

like a three part round,
       like a single voice murmuring
                      the dream never leaves us, of the self

like a three masted vessel still voyaging:
            out of the long matrix of memory,
                     the royal bulbs in the hold,

the ballast that keeps us upright, loyal
                to the dark, deep-bedded throne
       of the old country each new soul claims as its own.

“In These Soft Trinities” by Patricia Goedicke, in Paul Bunyan’s Bearskin (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1992). Copyright © 1992 by Patricia Goedicke. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. (

Source: Paul Bunyan�s Bearskin (Milkweed Editions, 1992)

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Poet Patricia Goedicke 1931–2006

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living


Patricia Goedicke's poetry has been described in the Times Literary Supplement by David Kirby as "intensely emotional, intensely physical." "More than any contemporary woman poet, perhaps, she exhibits a Whitmanesque exuberance," claims Small Press Review contributor Hans Ostrom. According to Peter Schjeldahl in the New York Times Book Review, Goedicke "bears down hard on the language, frequently producing exact ambiguities of . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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