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Winter Poem: "Unusual"

This winter poem is an oldie, from the time when my daughter was small.  The poem weaves in narratives about my friend who went to a sperm bank, about my daughter's first encounter with anti-Semitism, and about loving my husband with his great sense of humor.   The poem is found in Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press, 2009.





Cold white sun.  Pam's off at the sperm bank 

checking "Anglo-Saxon."

A wary shopper, she passed on the box marked 


How sick I am of categories!

Do the trees care that the sky has no roots?

Why not say "breath" for sky and branches?


Why call me "slow" when I may be racing toward 

                                    another life?

Oh, I can see myself in your rear-view mirror,

plucky like a sperm on my way to the bank

determined, it's pay day,     

breathe, breathe, wiggle wiggle, I'm an unusual


Reeboks instead of flagella.


Pam calls back--she's learned that "Unusual" 

means Native American.  

It's 1938, Berlin, and I'm  

unusual, hell, we're all a heartbeat away

from unusual.  We all love our children past

categories, we'd invent any subterfuge to save them,

give them our breath, swallow this white sun,

dragons breathing fire on the Klan, a belch 

                                     for that boy

in Heather's class who said the Jews were stupid,

better save a candleflame for Mrs. English 

who saw no bullying.


Let her recant the narrow outline 

reteach the whole Fourth Grade--

                        this time that writing "off-topic" is lovely, the practice of the outside lovely,

the practice of wind and trees and sun

unusual Grandmothers and Grandfathers 

praying for the shining mothers and fathers

on our way to God-knows-where.  



In bed, when I tell him about my sperm-walk,

my concern about suddenly seizing the macho--

do I secretly want to be a man?

Lou says, "There's a big difference between

being a sperm and being a man."

"What's the difference?"

"A man is alive, a sperm, debatable."

"And sperm don't know where they're going,"

I add.  "Neither do most men,"

says Lou. 

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There something about the structure of this poem that echoes the spirals and helices of DNA, the idea of destiny adrift in the universe, the blind groping towards meaning and purpose and light.

Thanks for sharing, Marilyn.

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Rosy, your comment is a poem in itself!

"the bilnd groping toward meaning and purpose and light"--lovely! Thank you--