Poetry | wisconsinacademy.org
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        Tell me     Grandfatherdid you ever        try to scrub outyour dark                   Mediterranean  skin          your Camelsoriginal     Napolitano     tongue

My sister doesn’t do sad.She tried it on a few times,   different styles, different sizes—   nothing quite fit. Either too loudor too dark, too tight or too baggy, she’d say.

It was that summer19 years old     I lived alonefevered with independenceefficiency apartment on Summit Avenuescratch cushions     pull-out couchGoodwill dishes     my boyfriend and I

                        By age three everything’s in place.There’s a closet for storing languagewith all the nouns and verbs on hooks and hangersknowing their places, who comes first

I rummaged around in words all day,changing this one, discarding that one,snipping, pruning, and adding, a gardenerworking in a field of meaning flowers. 

You think the elements know the difference between the inanimate and us?

See through these words, colors,movements, measures   See firstgreen shoot, see roots taking hold

and up at the source, seefissure in the ground, seeclear cold water, a spring 

         I am lazing around, sharing my attic roomwith Cincinnati’s swelter and three more booksfrom the library—Girl of the Limberlost, Jo’s Boys,Dr. Doolittle—when the church bells begin to ring

One would expect gracklesor crows, purple necks stretched outin the backstreet gloom, flutteringfrom dumpster to chain-link fence.

In what seems another lifetime,I drove a bus for Greyhound.Riders weren’t allowed to talk to the driver,and I couldn’t talk to them—company rules—and I wasn’t allowed to look at a map,

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Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
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201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25