| for Alicia Ostriker
My voice has two mothers,
my own mother, Carmen,
both lost in history
for different reasons
and both preserved in me.
I heard in my mothers voice
the inflections of her family,
my old Montana uncle
and the stones of the White Rocks
up where the Missouri River is born.
My mother in later life would fade a little
as evening came on,
her tone of voice shifting to Uncle Roys
as if she had tuned into
a radio station on a long trip
across open country.
And Sappho I hear with my eyes closed,
the push of a woman
singing into my diaphragm,
thrilling as the hum of my mothers voice
when she sang to me as a child.
Whitman described it best the valved voice
Where would I be without Walt?
Mother Whitman, as Alicia calls him.
Sometimes my Freshman English teacher
made light of him, the line handkerchief
designedly dropped and my barbaric yawp.
I sat through the class, rehearsing poetry, knowing
in an inchoate way
what it would take
to sing in a womans voice
as maybe Walt tried to do,
or maybe he just tried to sing
and a womans voice joined him
from the soul of the world
© 2009 Eloise Klein Healy.
Published in The Islands Project: Poems For Sappho, Red Hen Press,
Published here with the poet's express permission.