Three Poems by Elizabeth Austen


Found in Willow Springs 62

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Her, at Two


Sometimes a bone

at the tender back of the throat

requires a wracking, indelicate

cough to survive it. Sometimes

a bone is plucked -- still


fully fleshed --

from the platter and brandished

like a baton, a magician's wand.

She transfixes every guest

gluttonous tyrant


in miniature. Is this how we all

began, thrilled to hold the meat

in our tiny fists, sure

the feast was laid for us

alone? Soon she will want


what she cannot reach

will be told it's not for her

that's not ladylike

wipe your fingers

put down the bone.


Oh, let her be lucky

and rare, let it be years

before her gender is learned

as limitation, a fence

to circumscribe her life.




For Lost  Sainthood


because when the Virgin

appeared she said nothing


just waved    less hello than

come this way


a third-grade girl   a faith-fevered

fervently Catholic girl   I longed


for sainthood


I pledged my unknown

ungovernable body


consecrated my virginity to Hers


but already I knew

I burned


before knowledge before

even the barest mechanics


before the trancelike tidal pull

of sweat and flesh


I burned I burned

and already


I knew

I was not good    for all my hot


true tears when the host

was raised as Jesus' flesh


for all my prayers and carefully

counted rosary beads I knew


I burned I burned



What We Would Forget


ties us to the past

and, like roots beneath pavement, cracks


the  surface we would pass across,

though the tree lies some distance away.


Once heaved up and split

how can the path be smoothed


unless that living thing -- we must remember --­

is uprooted?


For these things sometimes happen. Though

the details differ, ours is not a unique story.


And if, as my lover enters me, my brother's

face intrudes, what am I to do


but open my eyes and name this man

who is not my brother, name myself, who am not


that girl, and continue the embrace

of these our bodies, now?

         No perception comes amiss --


my senses learned their scope

in that child-body. Who was I then?


And what of that girl lives tonight

in my skin? Do I carry her


always about me, ready to rise

and bind the present -- this touch --


to the past? Will I ever say

the thongs are burst that the dead tied?



Lines in italics are from Virginia Woolf's writings, as taken from Jocelyn Clarke's

play Room.

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