Poetry and Old Wives’ Tales
The term “old wives’ tales” is meant to be derogatory, like so many phrases that make mention of women. I’m reclaiming it right this minute. I’m old, and I’m a wife. And I tell tales.
Some folk wisdom, once disparaged as old wives’ tales, is turning out to be true. Also, the trees can speak, you know.
And, they make good prompts if you’ve temporarily run out of ideas for new poems.
At the market, I can’t resist
the orchid sellers, or any hothouse beauty,
although I know the flowers
and their little open mouths
won’t last. Conditions in the outside world
don’t often favor anything so delicate.
Ask the dragonflies: did they invent
the stories told to evil, orphaned children?
Or tell us how the iridescent spike
between a pair of gauzy wings
can sew a naughty mouth right shut?
The orphan-master tells me
Your mother was a slut.
I run crying to the river,
where dragonflies pause
on bulrushes, a half-sunk oar, a kneecap.
Each wears sapphire, tourmaline, and wings
as intricate as Shetland lace.
I point to my lips, in case they can fix
the threads about to come unstitched.