Poetry by Caroline Maun

Writing Time
One word after another
my mother filled these books
now neatly boxed, headed to the attic.
The writing was what she did daily,
like pin-curling permed hair
or smoking outside. I didn’t see
what she was really doing
until she was gone.
I fan her pages like a flip-book.
Her ball-point characters
crowd each margin,
disobeying the pre-printed
dates. After an entry
she’d draw a line,
moving through time,
forty years’ worth.
Non-narrative, anti-confessional,
she wrote what happened
in the clinical language of charts
in the tradition she knew of nursing
with a flat yet precise concentration
of one observing symptoms,
collecting evidence–
but the diagnosis would wait.
I read this archive now,
each day more or less
the same, with variations
concerning which doctor,
what procedure, her daughter
home late or early
what dosage,
was there movement
of bowels –every day
separated by the line grasping
each margin—
a mute appeal against ambiguity.
Let no day slip
into another.
I cannot find a way to misunderstand
the effort she took to pass.
Caroline Maun is an associate professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches creative writing and American literature. She is the editor of The Collected Poetry of Evelyn Scott (National Poetry Foundation), and author of Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle (University of South Carolina Press, forthcoming 2012). Her poetry publications include The Sleeping (Marick Press) and Cures and Poisons (Pudding House Press).

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