The child outside the swinging door
Heard her mother say,
I won't make something of myself
Stuck at home all day.
Honey, said a languid voice,
Some days I'm so depressed
By toilet bowls and groceries
I almost can't get dressed.
Another friend remarked, I told
My husband that, I said,
'Lanier, you hear me out. I am
Too young to feel this dead.'
I saw my doctor, cried a third.
He said to me, 'Miz Wade,
You get a little job and leave
That child home with the maid.'
All the while, the pattering cards
Were shuffled, dealt, and drawn.
Ice rattled in the glasses. Outside,
S.E. mowed the lawn.
The child sat on her leather stool
Behind the swinging door
And watched Princetta move across
The chessboard of the floor.
Princetta's hands were black and broad,
Their palms pale-pink as lips
Before the public smile's drawn on
In red. Around her hips
White apron strings, crisscrossed and tied,
Strained as she bent to see
Light biscuits rising, and to sieve
Black silted leaves from tea.
Child, Princetta said, you scoot.
You in Princetta's way.
She backed out through the swinging door
With her heavy silver tray.
"Bridge Morning" first appeared in Modern Age and is reproduced here with the permission of the poet.
The name is pronounced "Prinsetta," by the way.
This poem is pretty close to perfect. The "pretty close" is really just a formality, a legalistic gesture of acknowledgement that nothing in this world is truly perfect. I guess it helps if you know the world depicted here, but, just as with John Betjeman's Extremely English work, I don't think it's necessary.
That last line is what makes it, gesturing, or maybe just glancing significantly, away from the domestic scene to a wider world of injustice and tragic history--and more, discernment of which I will leave to your insight. The tray is heavy, the tray is silver: those two words do so much. And they sound so well together there, a perfect exemplar of the "sound and sense" motto. But that line only works as well as it does because everything leading up to it is so precisely convincing.
Sally Thomas--I almost said "is a real person." What I mean is that she's not a name in a book, an alleged person who wrote some poems long ago and far away, but someone who lives in the same world I do. I've never actually met her but she's a good friend of a good friend and we've met online. Some years ago, before Facebook, when blogs were more popular and this one in particular hosted more conversation than it presently does, she sometimes commented here.
Here is her web site. She also writes excellent fiction. This poem is from her collection Fallen Water, and if you like "Bridge Morning" I strongly recommend the book.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.