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Margaret’s Speech

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I’m a frogman. Naked by the water
Under a lean of canvas she’d sewn
With a thick paraffin thread,
She gestured. When we pulled him
From the river
His left leg was meal. Crayfish in the hair.
The river bottom left his shoulder
Layered and crocheted—
My sister’s pearl knitting needles
Clicking in my head. I told
The sheriff I wouldn’t do it again.

I knew him once. His Chevy threw a rod.
I made it with him
On the hood of the old truck.
It was out at the dump beyond Yuma.
It felt like I had bread crumbs
All over my mouth. Wacky with the sun,
I sure did it with him enough
That afternoon. I didn’t

Know it was him who’d drowned.
They said it was his cousin.
He had a three-cornered scar
At the small of his back. And a deposit
Of calcium on the tailbone.
We’re not much, you know?

He was tangled in yellow tree roots,
He spun in the currents,
A fishhook and line running
From his thumb.
A whole new ball of wax, I thought.

I wanted to be an astronaut.
But failed the mathematics
Twice in one summer.
So I raise Nubian goats.
My favorite has a purple manure
That comes out like steaming packets
Of tobacco mulch. He sprays
The shack with his seed—
It hasn’t needed paint in three years.

I just took my shorts off
When you two came down the hill.
It’s that rubber suit I wear
When I dive into the chute and cave.
Sometimes I just feel
Like old air in a patched tire. Then,
I get my Seagram’s and come out here.
You two look married. Not that I care.
You wouldn’t believe what I was just thinking—
Your husband’s the only living man
Left in this country
Who knows that I bleach my hair.
Norman Dubie, “Margaret’s Speech” from The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001). www.coppercanyonpress.org
Source: The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001)
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Margaret’s Speech

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