Poetry book, 36 pages, $11 cover price
Poetry book, 36 pages, $11 cover price
Alice Osborn, M.A. is the author of two books of poetry, Unfinished Projects (Main Street Rag, 2010) and Right Lane Ends (Catawba, 2006); she is a freelance writer, blogger and teaching artist. A former high school English teacher, Alice teaches creative writing in schools and organizations where she uses sensory images and road-tested prompts to stimulate her students’ best work. Her writing has appeared in Raleigh’s News and Observer, Soundings Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and in numerous journals and anthologies. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and two children. Visit her website: www.aliceosborn.com.
In Tillie Olson’s “I Stand Here Ironing,” we’ve seen the image of the ironing board and the steam press used before as a revelation of the hazards of the American dream of perfection (particularly for women) perfect house, perfect marriage, perfect family, perfect composure. In these poignant poems, Alice Osborn hauntingly and painfully updates and expands the use of domestic imagery as an expression of that narrow dream’s tyranny, adding to it the expectations and regimentation inherited from a successful military grandfather, and the inevitable insufficiency of everything else.
From snakes to movie stars to childhood memories of parents, lesbian neighbors and more, Alice Osborn’s persona persistently captures a certain wonder and bewilderment of the existing child inside us all. Some poems end with powerful lines and insight such as regarding her mother’s emotional distance and distain, “You say plants are easier/ to raise than children and I agree.” Or a declaration about her father’s beer drinking and unorthodox behavior, “Forgiveness is a selfish act.” This is a book crammed with images, explicit descriptions, characters and emotions. It needs to be read.
My father didn’t believe in air conditioning
on the May and August airless voyages
from college to home, home to college.
Cuts too much power!
No A/C in the Caddie, between Southwestern Virginia
to suburban D.C., over the Blue Ridge
and woven valleys–
the open windows conspiring with my father.
He smelled of Old Spice gone bad,
Soggy grapes left out at a picnic.
When we arrived home to our columned porch,
at the end of the long private road,
my mother expected the long white
diagonal marks crusting into my dad’s
blue polo shirt and my favorite black sundress.
Didn’t turn on the air conditioning, again,
She never said A/C because my
mother never shortened anything.
Ice Cream Party
The girls’ pale plaid dresses brush
against pink walls and their patent leather
Mary Janes kick the white tiles.
Two balloons escape
into the rafters, and I haven’t tasted
even a teaspoon of ice cream.
I won’t, not on this day.
It’s my third birthday,
the high voices squeal above the store’s
door chime. Hands clap-
they are my mother’s,
The guests all disappear like popped bubbles,
the high-ceilinged section empties.
The girls go home because I’m not
behaving, so my mother says. I never
find out what I did wrong, but I
remember her saying:
I love you, but sometimes I don’t like you.
For a long time I feared the chance
of friends leaving early.
Will anyone love me when they know me?
Will they show up at my parties?
Now after a decade of marriage
and two children, I fear my tongue-sealed invitations
go unanswered. While cradling my white wine
I don’t want anyone to leave me.
I smile too wide, needy for crammed rooms.
Bad Cactus Blues
Every cactus craves water and sunshine,
but you’d say you don’t need any
of that nonsense.
Your soil stays sandy,
a hint of dampness, but never too much.
You smell of fresh garlic,
on toast just before it burns. You sprout
wide, filling up your shrunken pot with roots
scared of color, infiltrating
all corners of your territory.
No other succulent can compete with you
since you are always right and demand others
to share in your green, scalloped perfection.
Your needles grow long and venom-tipped
when I enter the room; you can’t help
comment on my fat thighs, new laugh lines
and low class friends. I try to hug you
to make your pain go away,
but you don’t want my touch,
perhaps your needles will break
and then who would you be?
You say plants are easier
to raise than children and I agree.