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My mother was a voluptuary. After secretary school she went back to stay with my grandmother in the house on the corner.

She came out only when my grandmother sent her for milk, for cigarettes, for wine biscuits and pizza strips.

No matter. She got offers.
Frank Lafazia loved her. And Matt McDonough. She wanted only my father.

He was the guy who stood inside the knight’s armor down at the grocery. It was the Round Table Market, now out of business.
They had the knight’s armor by the door, for decoration.

My mother would come home with rust stains on her blouse, little bits of blood on her mouth.

My grandmother tried wicked tonics to cure her.
What’s in there besides nothing, she’d yell at her daughter.

Not that my grandmother was much better.
Commandant of the local dead letter office. In charge of letters to toothfairies and deities. In service of the nonexistent address, she daily donned her postal cap.

So that was my grandmother. Sappho was the patron saint of our mophouse. The poet famous for poems that are not really, anymore, existing.

Every ancient unearthed papyrus roll Sappho wrote on has holes just about. Sometimes out of a whole poem just a few words have survived. Like, Garlands of celery.

Out of respect, we often bought these at the grocery.

I was older and had left home and the congeries of toast and butter winters when an ass in Cypress unearthed an intact papyrus.

A whole work by Sappho from the start to end.

When that papyrus came to town four years later, to a museum, I was right in line—

I waited hours to see it, and when it was my turn I sprayed balsamic vinegar on it.

If I ever have a daughter—by prisonguard or conjugal visit—

I’ll name her Arc of a Circle. Or Ellipsis.

Or Awry By Any Means Necessary.

from Madame XFind more by Darcie Dennigan at the library

Copyright © 2012 Darcie Dennigan
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

Published in Darcie Dennigan Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.