To Future Eleanors

By Eleanor Ross Taylor 1920–2011
How will you
cut off from Zions,
              fall on your knees among the lions?
What if you
cut off from hymns
              confound worksong with anthem

Cut off from Scripture
                    find sense suspect
                    and worship
                                     distrust the laces
                                     and adore the tangled thread?

                                     What of you
                    without a holy thing,
                    but every sacrilege
                    of the sacrileged class?

Godsave your unsuspecting fists
grasping the fiery ladder bare,
your forehead
fighting a wordless solitaire.

Without some future language
how can I ask you?
If I could ask in Euphorese,
Moonskrit, in Ecolow....

                    What will you do with
                    Grandma’s savings — 
                    those relics atticked
                    in your head
                    of  effort, vision?

On pain of  death, scratch pictures
in the dust
                  as she did — 
I fear my after-thirst.

NOTES: This poem is part of a special section of Poetry magazine's May issue

Eleanor Ross Taylor, "To Future Eleanors" from Captive Voices. Copyright © 2009 by Eleanor Ross Taylor. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: Poetry (May 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2010
 Eleanor Ross Taylor


Eleanor Ross Taylor was born in 1920 in Norwood, North Carolina, and graduated from Women’s College, now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, in 1942.  While studying at Vanderbilt University, Caroline and Allen Tate introduced her to novelist Peter Taylor, whom she would marry in 1943. Her poetry has been described as elegiac, lyric and feminine; writer Erica Howsare explains, “The southernness of her background . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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