Six Questions

* Who are you and whom do you love?

When I find out the truth about my birth,
I already have two children of my own. 

* What do you remember about the earth?

I am six and the terrible grandmother has come to live
with us. She smells of tobacco and the green eucalyptus-
mint Valda pastilles she is always popping into her mouth 
from a tin hidden in her robe pocket. A game I like to play 
with some of the neighborhood kids involves taking turns 
putting Necco wafers in each other's mouths while intoning 
"The body of Christ." We are careful not to bite down 
so as not to cause the body of Christ to bleed. Then 
we walk around the grassy perimeter of the truck yard 
pretending we are floating, until the candy has melted 
and our tongues turn lime green, orange, or pink.  

* How will you begin?

A book about mountains, and roads carved into them by hand.
A book made of animal offerings suspended in the trees.
A book about salt blocks left in the valley for deer.

* Describe a morning you woke without fear.

I am in third grade. I am standing in the bathroom in front
of the mirror, swiveling the tiny little bit of bone that's been
lodged for as long as I can remember in my upper gum, 
right above a front tooth, back and forth. When it finally 
comes loose, I hold it between my index finger and thumb. 

* Tell me what you know about dismemberment.

When I first come across the word "debridement," I pronounce
the middle vowel as a long ī. As in bride. Because one of my daughters
is taking a Women's Studies course on sex and marriage, I try to recall 
what I learned at her age about such things. It was a time when feminine
products were unwieldy things: a bulk of cotton wrapped with gauze, 
safety-pinned to the crotch of underwear. Mostly, my mother told me 
to behave while handing me a copy of On Becoming A Woman, a book 
written and published in 1951 by a male doctor. The cover depicted 
a brunette with what might have been described as a becoming 
flush on her cheeks, walking past two young men in suits. 
The one sitting on a bench has two-tone saddle shoes on his feet. 
The other, standing, sports a bow tie. Both of them are obviously 
looking her up and down. Checking her out. She is definitely aware. 

[Note: as a lead-in to the 12-year anniversary Sunday, 
20 November 2022, of my writing at least a poem a day, 
I decided to use Bhanu Kapil's famous "12 Questions" 
as a prompt. There are the first six. My students in Advanced 
Poetry Workshop and I have been using it too, also because 
one of our course texts this semesteer was Chen Chen's 
Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency
he also uses "12 Questions" for a number of poems in his new book.]

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