Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WOMAN, GALLUP, N.M., by KAREN SWENSON



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WOMAN, GALLUP, N.M., by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The shadow of her profile lay stringent
Last Line: She shattered on the pavement.
Subject(s): Loss; Mothers; Silence


The shadow of her profile lay stringent
across the step of curb,
a styptic etch against his blood,

and he silent beside her,
lesions pale in the scars
of his limp hands.

The baby against
the breathing of her breast
watched, with black eyes
from under a ruffled lambchop hat,

the bus passengers walk
arranged oblivion in and out.

They did not talk.
She yielded him nothing but rigid back;
her neck a carved anger of tendons
where the black down murmured.

God! what had he done
that could not be darned with tears?

She sat lizard dry.
Road and railroad ran through her head.
The land ate red
to a frail mirage of mountains.

He raised his head
and with a gentleness of hand,
hesitant as settling dust,
stroked the curve of her neck.

His motion was only man to woman.
It was not enough.
Her silhouette, knifed out of sunlight,
fell into the gutter.

The passengers walked over it,
and she was mute as snakeskin.

If he had cast himself into his own
shadow under the bus wheel
she would not have wept
or cracked her parched profile,

until night erased it
or the baby gummed a pale cry.
He reached out again,
a cramped consent of fingers
down her shoulder.

His arm, opening
to press the baby's head against
the hollow of her collarbone,
scythed back into his breath.

Across a red scorch to mountains
she shattered on the pavement.





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