after Grimm's The Maiden Without Hands
After we speak I go to the hardware store
to decide on a drill, feel each black–packaged tool
bristle with its will to do harm. I interlope
among bit sets, arrays of blade and shaft,
gun–like metal shapes that brag of power.
The word–whir of our talk still buzzes its drone
a hot saw always left in the corner, ready to hack.
Important — safety instructions flutter then drop.
I follow your advice on what's needed to needle
a skin of paint, the force it takes to punch the wall.
How much better if I could have been like Athena,
springing clear as a doe, neat as a sum, blasted out
of your head like a sweep of clean logic. If only I could
have been pure as a product of the mind’s mitosis,
justified as when 'if' begets 'then,' and 'a' equals 'c,'
each chamber of reason I passed smelting an iron–ore
layer over my breast. How alike we could be when
I emerged, balanced as an axiom, threaded straight
as a theory, and born armed, with bow and arrow in hand.
Instead, in your grip, I was Thumbelina, a glass angel,
a set of porcelain arms crossed behind a back.
My hand was to stay undissolved as a spun–sugar
lump until asked for, approved of, then towed down
an aisle. But I've told you I can't be good as
Grimm's girl, when we stand near the ax I draw
my wrists back. Each pointed finger is my true weapon.
I won’t let you bronze the cut cups of my palms.
About the Author: Elline Lipkin grew up in Miami, attended Wesleyan University, and received her MFA in Poetry from Columbia University and her Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She has been a freelance editor in New York and Paris, and currently is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Beatrice M. Bain Research Group on Gender at the University of California at Berkeley, where she is also a Lecturer. Her first poetry collection, The Errant Thread, was selected by Eavan Boland for the 2004 First Book Award from Kore Press. She also studies and writes about spacial and visual elements in American women's poetry and the artist's book.
"Conversations With My Father" © 2003 by Elline Lipkin. The poem first appeared in The Poets’ Grimm, edited by Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson (Story Line Press, 2003); it may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.