• Black Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

IthacaLit   Literary Magazine: Lit with Art © 2011

All individual works copyrighted by their authors. All rights reserved.

First Credit IthacaLit. ISSN: 2372-4404

The Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize

Winner 2018

Damn—il pleut


i.

I’d like a father—but, goddamn,
we’re so over. I was less than

one when my mother and I flew
across the Atlantic to you.

Mother was a nurse, nursing me
on empty. Eggs cost real money

and the Army didn’t bother
to put up your wife and daughter.

Padre di ciao! High in a flat
in Cortina, you pinched your hat

into a (tri)angle. Your hair
was debonair and black. I swear

I’ve forgotten the rest, except
the iron bed where we three slept...

and me on a sled in the snow.
being pulled by a dog I don’t know.

You took a prize-winning picture.
I think it captured my future

survival: flying in defense
of you by the seat of my pants.

ii.

In Roswell, you flew us over
the saucer wreckage. Whatever

the aliens brought was a curse
on us—the unfortunate birth

of my brother who could not talk.
You might say his life was a wreck

from which you never recovered
and mother never said never

until I had to save myself
by telling on you. Nothing else

to do, with two little sisters
and a brother in our pastor’s

hiding place. I got out of (h)arm’s
way by falling into the arms

of the writer you tried to get
(d)rafted. Though we weren’t married yet

we were living together when
the draftboard told us of that scam.

What kind of dad does that? You called
to try and get my boyfriend killed?

iii.

In Washington, we stood in line
against the war in Vietnam.

In Oregon, trees turned to logs,
and clouds to raining cats and dogs.

Our kids went from school to college,
baby brother mentioned marriage,

and your daughter’s call returned
a letter! Our (b)ridges aren’t burned?

After your silence, I feel hope
in this Pandora’s envelope...

or money? (N)ope! Only talk of it,
as if that matters. More bullshit:

Do I have an IRA account? No!
You stole my savings long ago

before you managed to harass
my husband’s draftboard and my boss.

You can’t imagine what you’ve missed:
(Grand)children you haven’t kissed.

Unlike your children they feel safe.
I have pictures you didn’t take.

iv.

I have a husband whose concerns
match mine. He studies and discerns

that love is not demanded nor
(with)held for twenty years or more.

We’ve been escaping overseas:
England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece.

Armed Colonels marched into a play
at Epidavros. I learned Nai

means yes, and a nod means no. When
did no ever mean yes instead?

Bonjour, mon père. We’ve gone to Rennes.
But, damn, il pleut! We’re back again

in Oregon to find what things
we’ve lost. This paradox has wings.

The more we fly, the less distance
we gain. It’s that bright red (lip)stick

of memory. The more I write
my past, the more it line by line

takes me home into that summer
Daddy wrote “Whore!” on my mirror.

v.

You’ll never find me here. The neck
of Idaho is steep, and like

in Italy, above the heel.
Up here, I have a chance to heal.

Here, you can’t spank or zip my dress.
Palouse Hills are blown from the loess

of volcanic dust, not the live
mouth of Vesuvius you dived

into with those generals—those who
trusted you. What would you not do?

I’m starting my own war, mon pére.
Why were we afraid? You were there.

Why am I obsessed with books and sex?
Stressed about abuse? Plath (di)stressed?

Drawn to martyrdom? Joan of Arc?
Christ, why do I write in the dark?!

From the safety of my armchair
I scan my New Yorkers for their

accounts of war: the burst of bombs,
pillage by gangs with guns and brooms,

hegemony of religious hoards
who run young women through with (s)words.

vi.

Why did you give your airplane in the war
my name? Were you obsessed before

I was a woman? Is that all
you ever thought? How hard that fall

by gravity onto your lap,
how distressing your lessons, that

display of bone and boxer shorts--
sex lessons of a sordid sort.

Your second marriage was a fine
amnesty. You never found mine

tolerable. Now that you’re dead,
Daddy, (cold)cocked from heart to head,

I’ve moved on—safe to say—I’m all
in, my own (wo)man. Que tal?

vii.

Adiós Papá. Su hija
está en Albuquerque.

It’s not so far from Roswell, where
that saucer crashed. I remember

how you walked me to the hangar
how we swooped over the (d)anger.

To me, at four, it looked less like
a flying saucer than a broken kite.

Wasn’t I just your baby, then,
in the old days, at the war’s end?

Pamela Yenser, an Albuquerque writing instructor and book editor, is also 2018 winner of Bosque Journal's Poetry Prize for "Tenant's of Greece," a quartet celebrating poet James Merrill. Nominated at the University of Idaho for an AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction and Pushcart Prize in Poetry, Pamela has been the recipient of a University Prize from the Academy of American Poets, Antietam Summer Literary Award, Fugue Award, and poetry finalist at River Styx and New Rivers Press Many Voices. Her poems of witness, such as "Zipper Trip" (Massachusetts Review -referenced in EBSCO, Humanities Index, and JStor) are taught in Gender Studies classes. Her work appears in The Midwest Quarterly, Pivot, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah; in numerous anthologies; and online at Connotation Press, Notable Kansas Poets, and others.