V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





She left Pinar del Rio when she discovered
what he sought but did not want to know.
Grandmother's response was not to dignify
her profile as his wife and take the arm

he offered her in public, but to accept a carriage
ride into the fields, the curtains closed,
the cousin's lips first on her hands.
The book of folly, she thought much later

and I have written it.  "You," Ziegfeld
said as she walked across the stage
with twenty others in time to the piano
march, hesitating now and then to strike

a pose.  She was a good example of his need
for artifice, for intimation not disclosure,
legs sheathed in chiffon more alluring
than nakedness.  It suited her.

She knew of Ziegfeld's Anna Held—the forty
gallons of milk delivered daily for her bath,
the eighteen-inch waist, her heavily circled
eyes and straight nose, her house slippers

studded with sapphires.  "In Paris I ate
some fish and it brought out a peemple on my wrist,"
Anna said in the newspapers.  "The milk, she preserve
zee creamy complexion."  My grandmother

had learned in Cuba milk went bad so fast the cow
was led from kitchen door to kitchen door, freely
yielding while its calf was close.  She also knew
the stories—women bathing in milk, the milk

collected and resold.  Sometimes in dreams
she missed the dampness of the baby's neck,
the birthmark on her daughter's arm, but when
she woke she waited for the light to harden lines

night softens, to bring her focus back to solid
images, her one fine suit, her one black evening
dress, her only work outside of Ziegfeld—to clean
and curl the parrot plumes for feathered hats.

© by Jill Peláez Baumgaertner


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