Betty

You can see the sandhills from our new room.
Butterflies
live in the sandhills
and lizards
and centipedes.
If you keep very still
lizards will think you a stone
and run over your lap.
Butterflies’ liveries
are scarlet and black.
They drive chariots in air.
People in the chariots
are pale as dew—
you can see right through them—
but the chariots
are made of gold of the sun.
They go up to heaven
and never catch fire.
There are green centipedes
and brown centipedes
and black centipedes,
because green and brown and black
are the colors in hell’s flag.
Centipedes
have hundreds of feet
because it is so far from hell
to come up for air.
Centipedes
do not hurry.
They are waiting for the last day
when they will creep over the false prophets
who will have their hands tied.

Night calls to the sandhills
and gathers them under her.
she pushes away cities
because their sharp lights
hurt her soft breast.
Even candles make a sore place
when they stick in the night.

There are things in the sandhills
that no one knows about…
they come out at dark when the young snakes play
and tell each other secrets
in the deaf logs.

Sometimes… before rain…
when the stars have gone inside…
the night comes close to your window
and sniffs at the light….
But you must not run away—
you must keep your face to the night
and walk backward.

When it rains
and you are pulling off flies’ legs…
mama lets you play houses
with Lizzie and Clara.
Because you are the Only One—
and because Only Ones have to live alone
while sisters stay together,
Lizzie and Clara
give you the dry house
and take the one with the leaking roof.

Rain like curly hairpins
blows on Lizzie and Clara’s two heads
turned like one head—
two mouths
spread into one laugh.
Lizzie is saying:
why don’t you want to play—
when you feel you’d like to braid
the crinkled-silver rain
into a shining rope
to climb up… and up… and up… into the wet sky
and never see any one again.

Our gate doesn’t hang right.
It must have pawed at the wind
and gotten a kick
as the wind passed over.
The sitting sky
puffs out a gray smoke
and the wind makes a red-striped sound
blowing out straight,
but our gate drags its foot
and whines to itself on one hinge.

What do you think I’ve found—
two wee knickers of fairy brass,
or two gold sovereigns folded up
in a bit of green silk,
or two gold bugs
in little green shirts?
If you want to know,
you must walk tip-toe
so your feet just whisper in the grass—
you must carry them careful
and very proud,
for their stems bleed drops of milk—
but Lizzie and Clara shout in glee:
Pee-a-bed, pee-a-bed—
dandelions!
You look in the eyes of grown-up people
to see if they feel
the way you feel…
but they hide inside of themselves,
and so you do not find out.
Grown-up people say:
The stars are bright to-night,
but they do not say
what you are thinking about stars—
not even mama says what you are thinking about stars.
This makes you feel very lonely.

It’s strange about stars….
You have to be still when they look at you.
They push your song inside of you with their song.
Their long silvery rays
sink into you and do not hurt.
It is good to feel them resting on you
like great white birds…
and their shining whiteness
doesn’t burn like the sun—
it washes all over you
and makes you feel cleaner’n water.

My doll Janie has no waist
and her body is like a tub with feet on it.
Sometimes I beat her
but I always kiss her afterwards.
When I have kissed all the paint off her body
I shall tie a ribbon about it
so she shan’t look shabby.
But it must be blue—
it mustn’t be pink—
pink shows the dirt on her face
that won’t wash off.

I beat Janie
and beat her…
but still she smiled…
so I scratched her between the eyes with a pin.
Now she doesn’t love me anymore…
she scowls… and scowls…
though I’ve begged her to forgive me
and poured sugar in the hole at the back of her head.

Mama says Janie is a fairy doll
and she has forgiven me—
that she’s gone to the market
to buy me some sweets.
—Now she’s at the door
and a little bag tied to her neck—
I run to Janie
and kiss her all over….
Ah… she is still frowning.
I let the sweets drop on the floor— Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)
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"Betty" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/25884/betty>.

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