NOT MISS CLAVEL, NOT MADELINE

You live in a house
with a man,
alone. . .

and exult
in the beauty
of an old canyon. . .

Here live no
twelve girls
who’ve slept
two straight lines–

the house,
if your kept duty
helps it,
won’t be covered
with vines. . .

But, like Miss Clavel,
you wake up one dark night,
sensing that something
is not quite right. . .
although you’ve no
flowing
black and white habit
and you leave off the light,
and you don’t hop right up
or headlong run
down the hall,
in a fright,

But, there is still
one little one,
most important of all,
for ’tis she
only ye can tend,
and, in this dark hour,
comfort, befriend. . .

The man has gone. . .
so good to cleave to him
before his leaving time. . .

But now, alone, in bed
you have
no more prayers,
no more song,
no more games
nor endless rhymes
that shall sound through your head–

Instead,
it’s reckoning,
listening, deep talking time,
with that littlest, loneliest girl
who lingers,
whose cries you cannot
block out
by blindly, unkindly
plugging your ears right up
with your fingers. . .

What’s left
is her feeling
that lives
in the dark
of your deepest
belly nook. . .

What would she say,
if only she spoke?

Wait for her words,
and listen, and let them
develop, take shape in your mind and your heart,
just as whey sorts its way from the curds

and then ask
her to tell you some more,
until you can grasp very firm
what it is
she most needs–

This is the work
you have now in hand. . .

Maybe not quite
in the order
you’re ready for,
or the way
you’d have planned. . .

But, somehow,
you’ve heard–
and you know
you must take her
at her child’s wise word,
and get a grip
like a grown-up,
to be ready to stand up
and take her by the hand,

to start into
what’s really the work–
and don’t shrink
from even more talk
with her feelings
in your tight belly nook. . .

For though it is hard,
in the long coming ’round,
to begin–

you know that her pleas
will not actually bring
you or your spirit
quite down
to your knees,

And, in the doing
of these much needed deeds,
you’re apt to discover
a mode and direction
much more true to you,

and you’ll become,
when all’s said and done,
the best and first one
to nurture
that littlest girl
you know like no other,

who also knows you
through and through,
so that,
walking together,
you can come to a place,
where neither
of you two
will any longer feel blue.
and whence you’ll soon set new sights
and trek on much further.

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