Two Poems

by Clara Silverstein

Trespassing at the Homeplace

I know every invasive, every bulb with ruffled
purple fisted in its center, the rock
wall’s shine of poison ivy,
and the willow, a spangled
cathedral for remains of our pets.

Someone else is taking
shelter under the forsythia, its splinters
of yellow each dreary
March, and the dogwood
that sprawls but never flowers.

The cedar now soars above
the window where my daughter greeted
a robin family, its babies quivering
with need, boughs cradling walls,
its trunk an old friend.

Don’t Call My Daughter Fat

My only refuge from fat was the swimming pool,
the water’s unconditional acceptance
of the stomach I began hating in third grade
when I saw it shake as I giggled.

I had grace and poise in its turquoise depths,
as I power-kicked away from boys
who planned dunks and splash raids, surprise
attacks on girls they liked.

I joined in the whooping and revenge
until my fingers shriveled, and it was adult swim.
I had to climb the ladder, reclaim swaths
of waistline that filled me like ballast.

I thought I could outsmart my appetite,
giving it water when it wanted bread,
chewing a cookie, spitting it out,
though I drew the line at vomiting.

All my bargaining added up to years
of calories counted, cheated, burned,
a vessel of miscalculations
warning my daughter to swim away.  


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Clara Silverstein is the Boston-based author of the historical novel Secrets in a House Divided (Mercer University Press), the memoir White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation (University of Georgia Press), and four non-fiction books. Her poems have appeared in journals including Blackbird, The Paterson Literary Review, The Comstock Review, and at Boston City Hall. She works at a history museum and teaches at Grub Street Writers in Boston.