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Throat Singing


(Diego Rivera, 1935
"The Flower Carrier")

It's him! In peasant whites and on all fours, pinned
under the weight of his towering wicker basket.
He stares at the floor of the museum like a mule,

this man who overlooked my childhood from a print
above my parents' bed. He's still burdened by blossoms
piled so high they shove his sombrero down over his brows.

As a girl, I admired the woman: how she leans
to adjust the basket that's fixed
to her man's back by a yellow sling.

Rivera draws my eye from the folds of the sling
to the folds in the woman's cream-colored shawl,
then upward to her lowered eyes.

My mother must have read love here
in all its colors, while my father saw
a laboring man knocked to his knees.

I can hear my father humming Spanish Civil War songs,
union hymns, choruses from battles
he would never risk his family to fight.

I can see my mother tugging up their bedspread,
securing its perfect daily crease with pillows,
as the painting keeps retelling old stories

about the loads of love: Of a man
who will never unshoulder his basket, of a woman
who will always be bending to help.

Of a wife who cannot keep herself from worrying
each knot tighter, a husband who wonders
how flowers turned heavy as stones.

from "Throat Singing"
originally in "Southern Poetry Review"

Poems in "Throat Singing" originally appeared in Alehouse, Atlanta Review, CALYX, California Quarterly, Comstock Review, Connecticut Review, Ekphrasis, New Millenium Writings, Nimrod, Oberon, Passager, Poet Lore, Poetry East, Poetry International, Puerto del Sol, River Styx, Seattle Review, Southern Poetry Review, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Spillway, and Tar River Poetry, as well as on the Broadsided website and Verse Daily. Some were reprinted in anthologies: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women's Poetry (Scarlet Tanager Books), Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon Poetry), Mamas and Papas (City Works Press), Marin Poetry Center Anthology 2011, and From the Well of Living Waters (Kehilla Synagogue).

"Throat Singing," was originally titled "Dreaming on A Hard Mattress" and was a finalist for the 2010 Richard Snyder Publication Prize at Ashland Poetry Press, and for the ABZ First Book Contest.