Today I’m thinking of Dmitri Shostakovich on the train
after Lady Macbeth in Mensk and Stalin’s sniggering,
his round glasses mirrors
for the darkness moving outside the windows.
I’m thinking about how he rode that train for the rest of his life,
friends in camps and friends shot and friends without work
getting on at every stop and he can’t get off that train.
Still there was music, often so faint,
he had to eliminate the sound of Stalin
the way a bloodhound eliminates the scents of everyone
but the pursued.
How much was lost in the din?
I’ve never really understood the nature of art until now.
The Whiteness of the Whale
I am a white woman sitting in the gallery,
my two white girls fighting for space on my lap
as black boys mostly avoid looking
at the pictures on the walls
and at the three of us
huddled on our plastic chair.
I am a long chapter on nothing they want to know
who only occasionally wants to erase herself.
I am required reading.
They are there to see the photos
of incarcerated youth on the walls.
They are there, some looking,
some not looking, for maybe fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of containing the arms and legs
and bristling curiosity of the girls,
fifteen minutes of trying to let the boys be
but not ignore them,
trying to think of some thing to say or do
to make them feel at ease,
while the boys grow into men,
find work, fall in love, lose work,
go to school, start a family, get sick,
get worried, get pulled over, get shot.
Get shot. Get shot.
Get shot. Get
I have the keys to the building.
I’m just waiting for them to leave
so I can lock up.
About Rita Mae Reese
About Rita Mae Reese
Rita Mae Reese is a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Stegner fellowship in fiction, a “Discovery”/The Nation award, and a Pamaunok Poetry Prize, among other awards. Her second book, The Book of Hulga, was selected by Denise Duhamel for the Felix Pollak Prize in 2016. She designs lesbian poet trading cards and is the Co-director of Literary Arts at Arts + Literature Laboratory in Madison, WI.