Marilyn Hacker

1942 / The Bronx, New York City, New York

from Paragraphs from a Day-Book (section 1 only)

For Hayden Carruth
Thought thrusts up, homely as a hyacinth
wrapped in its bulb like a root-vegetable,
a ninth-month
belly, where the green indelible
pattern's inscribed into the labyrinth.
Thrust into light, it's air's inhabitant
with light and air as food and drink.
A hyacinth, tumescent pink
on the low wooden Mexican chest
confronts the wintry dusk
with informed self-interest.
Leaf-spears extravagantly ask
what idea, still gnarled up in a knot
of ganglions, will break through the husk
shaped at last, recognizable as thought.

Trace, on a city map, trajectories
of partially-forgotten words
along the river's arteries,
volatile substance of a sentient world.
Mauve heather crowds the window-grill. The light
lingers a little later, with a slight
vernal inflection. In a moon-glazed vase
bloom yellow freesias, like some rainy day's
brook-bank, in someone else's memory.
Small whirlpools of perception widen, ring
an infant's numinous discoveries
of syllables for animals, toys, trees:
a Lab's thick coat, the dusty birds
in Claremont Park each tardy urban spring,
a stuffed pink leather horse with button eyes.

A question-mark in yellow overalls,
I could read. I was three.
I slept with that pink horse. My one doll's
name was V. J. She'd been given to me
to celebrate the Victory
over Japan, that is to say, the Bomb
I'd spend my schooldays taking shelter from.
I couldn't tie my shoes. But Reddy the fox,
Tootle the engine who jumped off the tracks,
spelled me their stories on my mother's lap
despite weak eyes and poor small-motor skills.
My grandparents were dead: not in pogroms,
not in the camps—of strokes and heart attacks,
merely immigrants, not deportees.
'When you die, does everything just stop?'

I'm four, in itchy woolen leggings,
the day that I can't recognize the man
down at the park entrance, waving,
as my father. He has ten
more years to live, that spring. Dapper and balding
he walks toward me; then I run toward him, calling
him, flustered by my flawed vision.
Underfoot, the maples' green-
winged seeds splay on mica-specked octagons.
His round face, thin nose, moustache silvered gray
at thirty-eight look (I think now) Hungarian.
I like his wood-smell of two packs a day
as he swings me up to his shoulder
and I say, things look blurry far away
—one Saturday, two years after the war.
69 Total read