Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GOOD-BYE DOROTHY GAYLE: THE ROAD TO BUFFALO, by KAREN SWENSON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

GOOD-BYE DOROTHY GAYLE: THE ROAD TO BUFFALO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Take all her belongings
Last Line: And drove with her knuckles.
Subject(s): Legacies; Mothers & Daughters

Take all her belongings
lay them on the ground in two lines -
a corridor of ownership:
demitasse, embroidered guest towels,
the sterling iced-tea sippers.
Build a fire at the end.

Assemble the women of your tribe in two files.
Dressed in your mother's clothes
walk down the path of possessions
giving into the shadows of hands
those things you choose not to own;
gather into your arms what you desire.

At the fire strip off her clothing;
cast it into the flame.
Take into your arms your possessions
and walk, naked, into the dark yourself.
(Adapted from an African ritual)

They are stacked in the downstairs hall
each box labeled in my mind -
china for charity
wedding gown to the museum;
the gold sari she kept rolled up twenty years
will be made into my evening gown.

Purple vetch in stained-glass swatches -
daisies cream the field
on either side of the New York Thruway
all the way to Buffalo
but the sky is still small and comfortable
as a blind kitten's eye.

I grew up on Mercator in the kitchen:
a flat projection of maps on which she blazed in red
every trip she ever made
until Europe and America veined
the bloodlines of her journeys.

And yet she wept over the phone,
"He says I can't drive to Fargo,
that I belong here cooking for him,"
my kid-gloved mother
who drew on pigskin in the car
and drove with her knuckles.

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