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—for Tamar Craig

I knew the hard winter of sapphires
set within gold claws,
amber and pipestone strung on gut,
fringed pouches stuffed with hash.
Separate, separate, I urged her
that summer of Woodstock,
when I lied to get the car
and draped my love beads
around the neck of someone else’s sister.

In a hayloft in Ohio
my friend lifted three bales
to show me a litter of week-old kittens,
each pair of eyes infected with a slimy mucus.
Their pupils swam in opaque opal membranes
and they would have gone blind
if she had not pulled an eyedropper
of antibiotics from her jacket,

doing what the mother cat
could not do, what the owners
would not trouble themselves to do,
doing what a sister or friend
might do if she took the time
to attend the wayward, opalescent
unhappiness in this world.

“Opals” from All-American Girl by Robin Becker © 1996. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Source: All-American Girl (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
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  • Poet Robin Becker was born in Philadelphia and earned a BA and MA at Boston University. She taught for many years at the MIT before returning to Pennsylvania in 1994, where she is Liberal Arts Research Professor of English and Women's Studies at Penn State.

    Becker’s many collections of poetry include Personal Effects (1977); Backtalk (1982); Giacometti’s Dog (1990); All-American Girl (1996), which won a Lambda Literary Award; The Horse Fair (2000); Domain of Perfect Affection (2006); and Tiger Heron (2014). Becker’s range of subjects has been described as a “vibrant miscellany.” Her poems reflect her Russian-Jewish heritage and lesbianism, her interest in art history and art, the experience of growing up in 1950s America, and the legacy of the 1960s. In The Horse Fair, her subjects range from the painter Rosa Bonheur to the Torah and personal tragedies. Poet Kathleen Aguero has said that Becker’s poems are “richly populated by...

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