person Phoebe Marrall, five poems

Phoebe Marrall, orphaned at the age of nine, was a survivor of The Depression and of a grueling childhood. When she died in 2017 at the age of eighty-four, her daughters Jane Hendrickson and Camille Komine inherited hundreds of poems she had written. They remained unpublished during her lifetime, but it is the intention of her daughters that a collection be compiled for readers to appreciate. “Relief, Have You a Name?” is currently a work in progress, being edited by Gayle Jansen Beede.



Possibility opposes
my small defiance
and takes root in
my slumber.
Yes, I cried in small cries,
I want to do,
I want to calm
what thrashes.
But stillness has no pool
or settling pond.
I gesture and am not soothed.

Should a pot of pearl paint
be shaken before the cap is undone?

Should sedimentary frost follow
thick flow or undisturbed lavender
and glaze by accident?

Imprisoned and roiling
like unsettled gold, I plunge
emulsive light, never increasing.



There are times when poetry
turns me off, with its predictable
lines, sentiment, artifice.

I am embarrassed by simple,
discrete images laid out
in personal lento.

As I have lingered over
the very things poetized,
I wish another not to.

MY apple, MY bent nail,
MY basketry must not be
duplicated as cipher.

As I study stanza and verse
I fear I can
merely imitate beauty.



Afloat on waves of parqueted bricks
a sail with green boughed masts;
I played and wheeled the noonday mix
alongside birds scavenging the wake in blasts.

Twit and sit, their legs go,
black and shiny, strutting posts
tripods curled, flag-wing furled
nip the air with preening beak.

Beak and claw, no slightest flaw
Breaks zip/zip hop to my thrown crumb
A duck and quickstep
A flick and backstep
A small and wary tight-quilled drum.

Hello, bird
With monocular vision
Had yet met me more
Ye’d know my. . .

I love your black and yellow ringed eye
Your startling dips and bobbing neck
Your hollow bone, gray tone
Your set up, sit up, tweezer peck.



Whom should I listen to?
In the shallows of memo-writing,
leather scraps and cord,
the punch and glue can;
I am stuck with perfecting.
“…a good job, well done.”

Imbued and unfiltered, run through
with dissatisfaction, embalmed
with criticism from voices now echoing
with what they let fall: sharp-chipped,
I stir, and watch the dust in sunlight
and listen to the deejay buried in his plastic



I speak from two mouths, using
the words of one against the other.
This is not a debate; it is strophe and antistrophe.
And yet, more than this.
It is fulcrumic. It is premise and proof.

What is virtue to one
is cardinal sin to the other.
(My mouths adopt articulations
not their own, for the sake of example;
one magnifies the other.)

Husband/wife are “one” says one voice,
so certain. It has been indoctrinated.
“Two shall become one,” say priests and
protestants, and no one asks, “One what?”
In voice, the idea forms and hardens,
like epoxy left to dry the bonding.
It secures the disparate two.

The formation has been conceived,
in error. Bone and bone rarely meet.
Contraction turns the lipped joint downward.
The yoke holds; insistent voices strain
against wooden caution.
No matter the enlarged or shrunken shoulders,
the yoke must hold.
A second voice cries in agony of another
marriage, trying to die.
The South pulls at its Mason-Dixon line,
determined to undo straps and leathered minds.
The Union, the states, the free, the enslaved,
The Nation according to the North,
secession according to the South.

The marriage according to the North!
Separation according to the South!
“One must be two or die!”
“Two must be one or die!”
Honesty got farther than “Two shall be one,”
ipso facto, by decree, “I thus pronounce,”
and nearly broke the epoxy permanence.

According to where your choir loft seats you,
you sing north or south, sometimes in harmony.
Sometimes you sing with a mouth inflamed
but unheard until its stridency comes, discordant,
and your antistrophe cannot wait
and they clap their hands over their ears.


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