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Margaret C. Szumowski: Two Poems

La Bruja: A Ghazal | His Fingertips

La Bruja: A Ghazal

Sadly, I walk to the sea, carry bunches of roses.
La Bruja, where are you, my witch, with your bunches of roses.

Your girl wanders at midnight, black car spinning fast.
Everywhere along the sea, pockets of roses.

Your mother knew nothing but childbirth and whiskey.
Who can love this broken tree touched by roses?

Your father tends his garden, aqua vitae, magnolia, apple tree.
La bruja makes the shivering boy a lunch of roses.

A country we loved, broken and dying, now bags of dry leaves.
A man knows how to fly, how to flee, crouched in roses.

She loves wearing dresses made of spiders and cobwebs.
He tastes women's painted lips like brunches of roses.

Bare fists or knives, your father loves a good beating.
Who first kissed our garden door, its scent of roses?

Your old woman prays and dances. She stops the wild fires!
All I have is dried fruit and a crutch of roses.

Your healer lays black roses in a silver bowl.
How those pesky deer love the munch of roses.

Brett covered his scrawny body with a green tattoo.
Who was the old woman, crying, hunched in roses?

I could barely remember Margaret, my name at dawn.
In white gowns all young girls to the river. Stench of roses.

His Fingertips

White heron watching. My parents, quiet—
one son finds happiness, the other in his black clothes.

Michael's fingers sure of rippling connection to the keys,
his music: shadows, aching. I give myself up to floating,

slow time, herons standing still, finally raising their wings.
Andrew and I want to be light enough

to dance at Steve's wedding, our bodies one shadow
by the bayou. The crazy trombones Steve

and Michael played, golden slides on roller coaster rides.
Steve had the good sense to marry Jenny Lee Mayfield

from Lafayette, Louisiana. Jenny in the gown her mother made,
satin and lace, flourish of pink and purple flowers in her hair.

Michael in his black clothes, pounding somber Rachmaninov.
Sweaty, we dance to zydeco, listen to Big George play washboard,

eat crawfish and crab and shrimp with spicy sauce, float
the Atchfalaya, likely to drown in the bayou, not trusting

our lives to old Pierre, trusting Michael to no one.
White heron watching. God lets us
slip from his fingers.

Poet's Biography:
  Margaret Szumowski grew up in Winterset, Iowa, the oldest of seven children. She learned to tap dance and twirl a fire baton—An experience that required wrapping the end of the baton in asbestos, dipping it in kerosene, then lighting it and hoping for the best. Twirling with fire and breathing the freezing air at football games led her to poetry. She graduated from the University of Iowa and shortly thereafter took off for the Peace Corps and served in the Congo and Ethiopia. As a hostage in Uganda, she had the distinction of having her photo taken by Idi Amin-a sort of keepsake for him. Szumowski received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, and at the end of her orals with Jim Tate, she commented on how much she enjoyed the program. Tate's response: "Even more than being a hostage of Idi Amin?" accompanied by that great laugh of his. Szumowski is currently Associate Professor of English at Springfield Technical Community College. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Willow Springs, American Poetry Review, Poetry East, The Agni Review, River Styx, and River City as well as in a chapbook, Ruby's Cafe. Her first book-length collection of poetry, I Want This World, was published by Tupelo Press. She is the winner of the 2002 Peace Corps Writers prize for poetry.

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