Poems by Melissa Montimurro
Melissa Montimurro lives in Layton with her husband and four sons. The testosterone level in her house, she jokes, leaves her little time for sending out her poetry for publication. She holds a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Fairleigh Dickinson University. This devoted mother has read with Skylands Writers & Artists Association at Centenary College and Sussex County Community College, and in the coming season she will help to host and arrange a series of open readings on the campus in Newton. She is particualrly astute and deligent in writing upbeat critiques for her fellow workshop members. In 2000 she won the SWAA Joe Salerno Poetry Contest judged by B.J. Ward with her poem "Washing Away the Dead."
THE NUNS ACROSS THE STREET ARE BATHING
Imagine how they enter evening:
Sister Jean making tea to bring upstairs.
Then one by one,
they let their
black skirts drop,
in the convent lamplight.
The young ones,
Sisters Rose, Elizabeth, and Ann
have skin fine as custard.
They're all float and bob in the bath,
and bellies flat as plates.
They brush each other's hair;
pearls of bathwater flash from them
when they laugh.
They powder their waists and thighs
as if dressing for dates.
As if they'll dance like us,
all muscles and toes and bones.
The old nuns are quieter,
with skins of teabags and scuppernongs.
Sisters Jean and Margaret and William Eileen
brush their own dove-colored hair.
do the sisters let their habits lie
where they've dropped them--
in the convent light,
on the floors?
So for the last time Henry,
the "crazy" boy from the "crazy" house
would follow me up the sidewalk
waving a cane or a bb gun,
and his voice would trail off
like a dog barking weakly in the distance
or the horn of a train tapering to a whine
in the waiting air.
And I escaped maiming and mutilation
one last time,
my sneakers caught in the pocked cement
in front of our apartments.
Later, after JJ and Theresa and I
finished flying on our bikes
beneath the Kentucky coffeetree,
swatting its brown beans that dangle like trout,
always thinking how odd a tree like this grows
in a Bergen County parking lot,
there was the black scream of rubber
that split the Third Street summer.
There was Henry's mother, her black hair tossed
like a nest, her half-painted mouth shaped
in the horrible roundness of no.
There was the driver, the mothers in aprons
burst onto stoops.
Mike the Midget, Tough Brannigan, and the Dragon Lady, too.
They were all there in July's radiance unpinned
at crazy Henry's broken body,
the long thin pods of his fingers
Copyright © 1999 by Melissa Montimurro. All rights reserved.
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