Marion Brown



                                                           so many,
and my decor so single? Bugs, chairs,
or feathers, garbage cans, motes alive
in bright air, multi-hued catalogues
for Christmas. Serials served in sit-com
or bowl, one "I do" after another,
and me, alone, in an attic at home,
two children aloft in plane, ship or tree
who don't hang, anymore, on my say.

Not even Suleiman the Magnificent of me,
I have one device—bind a band
round my head to create the illusion and
conjure the furniture of my ultimate sway.



Chopsticks at the next table remind me
that, in time, implements we employ fit
the hand that uses, a knack that turns
to a comfort when practiced over years.
In my family, like many, it's a simple fork,
too ordinary to notice clutched in a palm.

Eating with my Oma, I held it in one palm
though shifting left to right came easier to me,
the way most Americans wield a fork.
In high school, policing habits in a fit
of imitation, I ended the lefty way for years.
Amazing how aspects I display take turns,

even those plain as my nose: fat lips turn
to gobble a man's kisses. His broad palm
passes and magically waves away years
of averting my eyes from mirrors, giving me
an unfractured oval when I see that I fit
one woman's brand of beauty (as others fork

out sums to look ethnic.) I belong, like a fork
beside a knife. And my father, as he turns
himself American, learning fresh slang to fit
speech patterns his mother did not get. A palm
hid a pack of Chesterfields, his mind, me,
after studies and a love found in Germany—years.

I was copper-haired and brash in girl years
of dirty nails, rowdy manners; my fork
craft did not please my dad, though it gave me
nourishment enough. When she shuts up and turns
to a boy for approval, he's got her in his palm,
and no pose a girl assumes is likely to befit

her style. What style? All I wanted was to fit
in, distinctiveness the terror of those years
of high school. My hoop-star boyfriend could palm
the ball. Dwarfing me, he said, about the fork
trick, "Don't ever do it in my house." It turns
up in Brussels where he tries to copy it from me.

Not a willing misfit, flirting or employing a fork,
I watched myself for years. The impulse returns
as chopsticks hit my palm. Now it's all up to me.




This naked grab for power, as another poet called it, was my complaint while one of my children was on a plane headed back to his home in California, the other living in Seattle. Or it was engineered solely to get the name of Suleiman the Magnificent into one of my poems.


Elaine Sexton, my gifted teacher, asked everyone in her workshop to write a sestina, a very old form I'd never tried. While I mulled it, I happened to remember how my father had watched my table manners, offering correction that may have betrayed some social insecurity. Anxiety turned out to be good for a poem.