In Memorial to Enid Dame
Three Poems and an Introduction by Daniela Gioseffi
| CINDERELLA |
LILITH, I DON'T CUT MY GRASS
Enid Dame, much loved and respected poet, writer and teacher, died of complications from pneumonia on Christmas Day, Dec. 25th, 2003. Her book of poems Stone Shekhina was published by Three Mile Harbor Press [P.O.Box 195 1, East Hampton, N.Y. 11 937, Katcher@attglobal.net] in 2002. For nearly a quarter of a century, she edited, with Donald Lev, Home Planet News, and she was a beloved member of the New York poetry community for as long. In praising Dame's collection, of poems, Stone Shekhina, Alicia Ostriker called Enid Dame "One of the great midrashists of our time." Philip Appleman noted her "inventiveness and verve" as in the stories of Lilish and Eve, Noah and his family. Miriam and Esther spring to life again." Janine Pommy Vega observes that "She brings us their reality as they must have lived their lives-with grace, not a little humor, and great resolve". Dame's previous collections include Between Revolutions, New York: Downtown Poets, 1977; On the Road to Damascus, Maryland. New York, Downtown Poets, 1980, Lilith and her Demons, Merrick, N.Y, Cross-Cultural Communications, 1986, rpt. 1989, Anything You Don't See. Albuquerque, NM: West End Press, 1992. She Co-Edited Which Lilith? Feminists Writers Re-create the World's First Woman, see review on this site. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998, with Lilly Rivlin and Henny Wenkart. She facilitated workshops in writing midrashic poetry at various venues, including the Joy of Poetry Festival in Monmouth County, NJ, Rutgers University's Creative Writing Dormitory, and the Institute for Contemporary Midrash. She read her work at forums including the Geraldine Dodge Foundation Poetry Festival, the Cedar Tavern in Manhattan, and Makor, an affiliate of the 92nd Street "Y." She read anti-war poetry with Daniela Gioseffi for Mother's Day, 2003, at Cornelia Street Café, not long before she died, when this photo was taken by Daniela. Her reviews and other writings have appeared in such publications as Tikkun, Lilith and Jewish Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia. She was also an editor of Bridges, the Jewish feminist magazine. We offer this pointed poem by Enid Dame in memorial, and in memory of her lively spirit and her very human poetry. She had given me permission to use "BULBS" on this site, so I share it with you now, in memorial. Read and remember. It is followed by "Cinderella" from The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales, edited by Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson (Story Line Press 2003.)
Fondly to all who knew and loved her,
Editor/publisher: Poets USA.com/Wise Women's Web: Daniela Gioseffi
BULBS by Enid Dame
--for Patricia Fillingham
You gave me six daffodil bulbs
to plant in my upstate front yard,
letting each one stand for an unrescued name
entombed in the Tower wreckage.
I carried the box to my mountain,
set to work with a shovel.
It proved slow going,
that ungiving October day.
One of the bulbs had split:
two bodies joined at the stem.
I thought of those mythic co-workers
who held hands before they jumped.
My shovel kept finding rocks
or pieces of Catskill bluestone.
Finally, I grubbed out six holes.
I propped one bulb in each cavity.
Then clawed at the compost heap,
hoping to strike riches:
black earth busy with slick worms,
mother's moist fudgecake batter.
But luck wasn't with me that day.
My yield was a thin brown
mix from a grocery box.
I trickled it over the bulbs,
thinking of other gravesides:
the ritual shovels of earth
jaggedly hitting the casket,
our last conversation
with our well-known dead.
I thought: I'm burying six people
I probably never knew,
their bodies unfound their names amputated.
All we'll have is six flowers,
if they actually bloom next Spring,
if we're here to see, to remember.
CINDERELLA by Enid Dame
Every daughter has two mothers:
my good mother believes in government.
She loves and distrusts her house.
She scours the ceiling, scrubs the floor with a toothbrush.
Father's been gone for years.
My bad mother is an anarchist.
She sleeps late in a cobweb bed.
She walks through the house naked,
feeds tramps at the backdoor.
My good mother says, "Your body is disgusting.
It flops and bulges; it has no self-control.
I must keep you locked in this basement
because your smell would overpower the city.
Boys would fall out windows for lust of you.
A young woman is a walking swamp.
She leaks and oozes. Insects and toads cling to her hair.
She draws trouble
like a pile of manure draws flies."
My bad mother likes to walk barefoot
in mud. Cats and dogs sniff her crotch.
She laughs. She gathers flowers:
demure black-eyed Susans,
open their skirts for her.
My bad mother says, "Trust your body."
My good mother gives me a necklace of cowrie shells.
I think they are ugly. They look like vaginas
with jagged, sharp teeth.
My bad mother hands me
a garland of dark red roses.
They are beautiful. But they too look like vaginas.
My good mother says, "If I let you go to the ball,
don't come home with a man or a belly.
If you do, I'll kill myself."
My bad mother says,
"Someday you'll bring home a man.
I'll make him chicken soup.
I'll knit you an afghan
to warm yourself under.
If he says your body smells like fern and rain-worked earth,
if he says your juices taste like flowers then
stick with him.
Whoever he is,
he'll be a prince."
I DON'T CUT MY GRASS
Lilith, I don't cut my grass
as you never cut your hair.
I picture you in my backyard
where it's always cool and ferny,
where jewelweeds grow taller than trees,
where wild berries tangle
like knots in cats' fur.
I see you sorting out the birds from the cats:
two of your favorite animals.
Contradictions never scared you.
Lilith, you smell like the earth
and marigolds and mulchy leaves.
Your arms are mud-bespattered.
You don't look like my mother.
I couldn't ask my mother
for a blessing.
She was too much afraid
of her own craziness.
She only spoke to cats.
Every few months
she went to an expert
to burn all the wilderness
out of her hair.
Once she tried to take me with her.
I scratched and fought,
yowled, ran up an elm tree.
It took years to climb down.
Lilith, I'm almost 50.
I'm running out of time, money, eyesight.
I still bleed but for how long?
Not like this yard where everything is liquid:
where roses sag and break their waters,
tomatoes offer up their juices,
slugs die dreamily in beerbowls,
you dip your toes in green mud.
Lilith, neighbors are complaining.
to buy me a power mower.
How can I tell them
I'm terrified of power?
There's too much let loose in the world.
It's one gift I don't need.
Lilith, it's growing later.
I know you won't hang on forever.
They say Messiah's coming any day now.
I hear his footsteps ringing in the hallway.
The clean clang of authority.
I see his shadow looming
big as a condminium
sucking up the sun.
No stopping that man!
He's carrying a squirtgun filled with chemicals.
No room for weeds in his world.
Lilith, bless this garden
while both of us
still use it.
Copyright © 2005 by the Literary Estate of Enid Dame. All rights reserved.