The One with the Ugly Name
"and now to our darker purpose"
“King Lear,” Act I
You told me soiled sheets.
You told me scrub by candles.
You told me Bluebeard secrets
in a room of glassy coffins.
I grew up with a noose,
your crown, your eye.
You sold me half the land
to wink at Regan’s thigh.
I palmed your hot grip.
I shouldered all the luggage.
I learned to call the crow,
my gammon, my prize.
I plucked a bower, acid.
I wove a cloak, grim-sided.
I bartered all my ghosts
for a word to make you mad.
I love my mackerel god,
this grief, this tear.
I took your unstaked scepter.
I gave you all my cancer.
I grew and screwed a tumor.
I wedged a husband nearer
to bear my sweet Cordelia.
(previously published in Poetrybay)
You had a daughter, flaxen-headed,
a flower, no Grimm-land of fairytale tower.
This was real, not read, you the dragon in the cave,
the bed. You the ogre with your son in your lap.
You the troll without a bridge, shaking your son,
pulling your little girl across the room, rough palm
on the ribbon of light that was her hair. You so
sodden with drink the whole bed turned to sponge:
I crawled off, laid on the floor, wood beating
its dead tree heart, for I am the woodsman in this story:
I climbed the walls, I spun the wheel, I caught
the drop of blood before it fell from the spindle,
I ate the apple, swallowed the poison: changed it to
sweet candy I passed on as sorrow, burned licorice.
I sold the cow to get the meat-O-when the milk ran dry.
I bartered with a boy for beans, a shell game.
I held his hand, I saved his good green eye
when you stole the blue one while he slept.
You uncurled his soft hand in childish dreams
to grab at marbles, now sullied, but I taught him
to hone a patient sword, to calve a harm sudden,
to drop the jacks and catch the golden ball,
to saw open the frog’s mouth when the pond runs dry.
To watch my back while I pounded out this thesis:
I covered the mirrors, I found the crumbs,
and when it came time, when it was necessary,
I killed you. I came prepared with stones.
I slit you open and filled you up. I sewed
you tight, a drummed-mouth punt of silence.
The newspaper said your heart gave out.
(previously published in Flashquake)
Born and raised in New England, Elizabeth
Barbato somehow ended up in NJ, where she teaches English. Her
school has funded her work over the past several summers: She
finished her doctorate, went to Scotland to check out the Picts,
and sailed to the Galapagos. This summer, she will head off to
Costa Rica. She has poems in places like SOFTBLOW, Apple Valley
Review, Ghoti, Shit Creek Review, Blue Fifth Review, Little Red
Leaves, Tipton Poetry Review, Word For/ Word, and Cantaraville.