The Fear of Vacuum Cleaners
Ah, little one of the deep fish-eye,
little dreamer of the night and the day
and the night. You stare at this new
world of air, earth, and light,
wonder at the simplest things.
How a green tendril can sprout
from black ground. The deafening
sound a vacuum cleaner makes.
A sound you cannot bear
to hear: terror of the deep wind
sucking you up into a dark
place that holds no memory.
Legend says the still unborn
can see with closed eyes, possess
a look of surprise as they
peer from thin sacs covering
their shrunken bodies like shrouds
or wedding veils. Ah, little one,
when the vacuum cleaner looms
from its black closet-home
and you cannot blink your eyes,
do you remember the legend?
Climbing Harney Peak, Black Hills, South Dakota
The rain lasted all morning,
ending in a mist, its silence
more complete than the rocks.
We start the climb after
the clouds break, leaving a blue
that defines the very edge of things.
Half-way to the summit, we stop,
drink clear water with cupped hands,
our mouths touching the stream.
For the Lakota tribe,
this barren place of black trees
was the center of the world.
At the top, we finger its scars:
graffiti, broken glass. The abandoned
air and dark pines breathe through us.
Below, the world is invisible.
Our children, all those we have named,
impossible to know from this height.
As we descend, the mist returns
to claim us. How it knows our voices,
our very shapes. So little have we changed.
The fact that your mother loves it
automatically makes you hate it:
her obsession for ironing underwear
and hankies and bed sheeets. She cared
whether or not you had a crisp crease
in your white panties. No matter
that it was invisible to everyone else.
Scrubbing the attic floor once a week
and the dishes five times a day
left time for nothing else, which suited
her just fine. And the fact that you
spent infinite hours composing term papers
and got a master’s degree from some
uppity New England college that no one
in Ohio has heard of means nothing
to her. Who cares if you can read well
or write better? The window sills in your
house are still cluttered with dying
plants, dust, chipped porcelain.
No husband. She reminds you with every
refusal to come and check for herself.
Poet and writer Linda Nemec Foster is the author of seven poetry collections, including the critically acclaimed Amber Necklace from Gdansk. She recently served a two-year term as Poet Laureate of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan.