Friday, November 25, 2005

Across Another Border

Here is a poem written in a walking workshop I gave. We used Santa Fe as our backdrop and inspiration. I took the poets to various places around town, the Capital, Witter Bynner's home, an old print shop, the plaza and we wrote poems based on the locations. This poem came out of visiting a photography gallery. The exercise was to use one of the photos as a basis for your poem. Thanks to Pam for allowing me to post it here. Happy Thanksgiving, xox Gary

Across Another Border
Pamela Bentley
from Carl Mydan’s photograph “Collaborationist (French woman accused of sleeping with German is shaved)”

The clippers in Fernand’s hands dull
before the task of desecrating my mass of hair,
the act meant to shame me,
to destroy my femininity so I will
not be desired by men,
German or otherwise.
Mariette and her sister-in-law Josée laugh,
a joke made at my expense
but that’s nothing new.
Plus ça change …

What difference
if I seek passion in the arms of a man
from across a border?
I did not make these borders;
the lines drawn
have nothing to do with feelings.
Other men’s borders
have brought us to this place
where whom we sleep with is a crime.
And what have these people
who surround me,
taunt me,
delight in my punishment,
done to resist the Germans?
No more than I have.
My act may have even more effect.
Perhaps the satiation of lust,
the giving of love,

dulls the war appetite for battle
for killing –
(though for some it is never there at all,
I learned from the German boy
each night he came to me).

I have no fear of Fernand’s sure touch
as he shaves the back of my neck.
Fernand (who is really Fernando)
and his brother, Martín
(I will see years later when
I come across this photo of us in a gallery)
is almost smiling,
looking directly into the camera.
Martín, who that very night
ran his hands across my shaved head
touched my lips
with his fingers, then his mouth,
said I was still beautiful.

His long slicked-back hair,
when ruffled and released by my fingers through it,
was enough for both of us;
his body and the color of his skin
so like that of my “collaborator”
the “German” boy, blond,
who spoke French and Italian with the same accent
as Martín,
whose language, though like ours,
is from across another border.