"Growing Up Haunted"
When I enter through the hatch of
memory those claustrophobic chambers,
my adolescence in the booming fifties of
General Eisenhower, General Foods and
General Motors, I see our dreams:
obsolescent mannequins in Dior frocks
armored, prefabricated bodies; and I see
our nightmares, powerful as a wine red
sky and wall of fire.
Fear was the underside of every leaf
we turned, the knowledge that our
cousins, our other selves, had been
starved and butchered to ghosts.
The question every smoggy morning
presented like a covered dish:
why are you living and all those
mirror selves, sisters, gone
into smoke like stolen cigarettes?
I remember my grandmother's cry
when she learned the death of all she
remembered, girls she bathed with,
young men with whom she shyly
flirted, wooden shul where
her father rocked and prayed,
red haired aunt plucking the
balalaika, world of sun and snow
turned to shadows on a yellow page.
Assume no future you may not have
to fight for, to die for, muttered
ghosts gathered on the foot
of my bed each night. What you
carry in your blood is us,
the books we did not write,
music we could not make, a world
gone from gristle to smoke, only
as real now as words can make it.
Excerpted from The Art of Blessing the Day by Marge Piercy. Copyright © 1999 by Marge Piercy. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.