Judith Baumel


ELECTRONIC ALLEGORY


The seat belt sensor.
The car door, cell phone,
alarm clock,  micro-
wave. The computer,
computer printer.
The Tamagotchi.
Happy Little Egg.
My son’s virtual 
pet for which I have 
become foster mom
when he is in school,
the way it calls me
and I respond to 
its summons, urgent,
as milk released in 
his infancy from 
my nipples, “let-down,”
though for me it was 
a cranking up of 
my anxiety 
and fear, as I jumped
at the cry and still
jump to the “mommy” 
that sounds so different
at different ages
but the same among 
same aged children. Thus
in the agora
the tone will move me 
in panic before 
I can distinguish 
the sound’s creator
or what is wanted. 
It will move me toward 
solution, toward what
is meant by “pushing 
my buttons”
—release 
and start of tension
at once—a calling.




MONUMENTAL GRIEF


for Julia


At last, this is the poem about your monument scarf.

About the monument scarf you’ve been waving

At me ever since that afternoon twenty years ago
Clare gave it to you in the Andover house, freezing 

As it would be even in early fall, and she tossed
that piece of silk to you, it had been
Pooh’s, from the heaps of family archaeology.

About the monument scarf with its scenes
of Rome that only later I would come to love
as I would love the old Italian magazines scattered
in all the rooms of the place, almost not at all a house
someone lived in, but some post-diluvial storehouse.

About the monument scarf you see
as a fitting—what—Metaphor. Trope.
Allusion. Apostrophe. Symbol. Image. Entree 
into the story of your family
which anyway you’re doing as a novel,
so I’m to take this pale green square
scarf and build from it something square
and lyrical, regular, right and true.
About the monument scarf you wore
to her memorial service when, at the party
after, one last long grand chaotic Sunday Lunch,
I saw you in the kitchen as I sat in a dark 
room meditating on the intervening twenty years.
About that head scarf I saw fluttering brightly
in a bright room across the distance
of corridors as if it were a movie or a strong
dream.  I’d driven to New Hampshire in morning
darkness and ended the day in darkness 
on a couch surrounded by dark 
things and dark thoughts and dark years
and so many of the things I’ve let go—

The ones I had swiftly waved away and the ones 
I clutched at desperately dragging them back.
There I sat in the dark holding onto the corporeal 
flesh of the disappeared in a dream; 
knowing the way I had seen Clare collect and pursue, 
pile up what she wanted, was characteristically pure; 
knowing I’ve never regretted saving, even as I lived
in the painful mess that accumulating means.  
Knowing I’ve felt as a physical force the rebuke
of what I’ve passed over.  There I sat holding the hair 
and the skin and the muscle of what I’d let go,
murmuring over it as if to coax it back to me
and in that waving scarf were monuments— 
Il Colosseo, I Fori, Il Circo Massimo—structures in ruins,
not least of which was my life, since what had come back 
had done so briefly, only to remind me of the empty room
that this clutter would soon become, this house 
I’d never revisit—a monument a stone a headstone 
over earth filled with the active life that is destruction,
with the life that breaks down our own residue, 
with the equivocating  soil in which we will ultimately rest.