Mallarme, synonym for obstacle
in their suburban saltbox, his poems
a wooden crate for her mother
to kick her way out of,
reciting his lines
as she vacuumed.
A classical explication de texte
of “An Afternoon of a Faun,”
the professor deemed
perfect but out of date.
His name, deceptive, mellifluous, a pillow
to float on, a cat’s name;
Mallarme almost a palindrome,
a private family
symbol, a syndrome
demanding to be deconstructed,
with a stuttering undercurrent.
A river the opposite of lethe
kept her mother awake,
churning hot and molten.
Her mother let the needle drop,
seconds of scratching:
Debussy in a minor key.
The child, held the large cardboard
sleeve, listened, stared
at the drawing of a faun
without a w, not a young deer,
but a man, of sorts,
with no shirt on,
his hooves disturbing the hardwood.
A flute wound through the glade
of the living room.
Violins, pan pipes, a harp.
She sat and swung her legs,
not knowing, not wanting
to be asked
what she was hearing.
The Reader, 1888
After a painting by Berthe Morisot
To go into oneself and close the door of the cage.
To make oneself into a small bird
in a cage not singing but silent.
To be lost in thought, in the heat of the conservatory
ordinary sun beating on the glass,
to feel the brushstroke’s action.
By staying quiet one appears obedient.
To be at the center of unruly brushstrokes,
one feather among
wild frenzied feathers scratchy on the canvas,
caught in a maelstrom
orange, red, green cacophony.
Oil that at first resembles
pastel or colored pencil,
brushstrokes like feathers in a whirlwind.
To turn the pages, one after the other,
to feel the ruffled pages lift their wings.
To be quiet when the bird inside is not.
A History of the English Tea Cup
For centuries tea was sipped
lukewarm in small cups
fragile as eggs
held in two hands.
The handle was added when tea
was to be served
when still hot, a saucer placed beneath
the cup to hold the spoon
after the sugar dissolved
in a bergamot or jasmine steam.
Now you stir and stir
and recall the fun of an aunt
late Northwest afternoons,
peering in the almost empty cup
at shapes in the black leaves
she called your future:
a gate, a small boat.
she knew every detail
and how those years would be
It was all in her hands,
tapered like your mother’s
in the rainy dark.
Helena Minton’s most recent publications –a chapbook with Finishing Line Press, The Raincoat Colors. Poems have also recently appeared in The Listening Eye, Wilderness House Literary Review, and The Muddy River Poetry Review.