"Death is the Mother of Beauty” - Wallace Stevens

Like any great butcher,
the mother is an excellent chef.
She knows how many teeth it takes
to create a grinning skull
and the force required to crack it.

The mother’s hands are rough,
half plastic, half scar:
knife-nicks, steam-burns.
The mother is a melted candle,
the smoke from the wick extinguished,
the stack of clean dishes put away.

The girl has never thought of this.
She smiles, checking her lipstick
in her steak knife.
Wax-thin fingers lift a midnight curl.
Her full lips—a sunflower-smirk.

In the water glass reflection,
the mother watches the full moon version
of herself
in her daughter
before years slivered
the pounds of flesh.

The mother feeds her daughter well:
lamb shank with wilted greens,
steak tartar.  Red cubes of flesh
between rouged lips.
Each bite slick
with pink-gold gravy.

The ribs have always been
her favorite.  The lean and fat
cleanly cut from each slim bone.

Never vegetarian, Beauty,
like her mother,
knows how to wield the knife.

Molly Meacham left her Tennessee home to avoid an MRS degree and wound up in Chicago with a double degree of theatre and poetry. She is a member of the Speak'Easy Poetry Ensemble.  They performed in Germany for the Bertolt Brecht Festival. Molly has read her poetry across the US and in Australia.  She has published with Dew on the Kudzu, Bestiary Magazine, and Right Hand Pointing.  She wrote and performed in a commercial for the Big Ten. She teaches in a Chicago Public School the rest of the time.

This poem came from a lesson for my students on using reading to help inform writing.  They read poems, picked favorite lines, and wrote why the lines stuck out to them.  The line from Wallace Stevens has always been a favorite of mine.  The familial relationship between Beauty and Death had me examine what mothers and daughters have in common, how they communicate.  Food served as a link: Death and Beauty both survive on meat, thirst for blood.  That’s really what it came down to: finding the common ground between mother and daughter.




Copyright 2009