Friday, April 27, 2012

Leaving Poland


(19th C. Actress Helena Modjeska contemplates why)

I wake with a thread of wind
pulled through the evergreens
by the sea.

It could be used
to hem my ambition
and keep a dream
from dragging on the ground.

An actress is an artist
and she must become adored;
not a stage candle melting
into a pool of rumors or shame.

When a girl steps on stage,
she risks falling from grace.
The passion of play
and patron overwhelm.

Long hours were spent
practicing in his house.
How soft his words settled
on the tongue , his hands massaging
the piano --- and often
the tense chords in my spine.

Such tender music! I could not help
my first descent
into his warm arms and bed,
the lilac too fragrant, too widespread
across the window, bridal lace

belonging only to Spring.
Not to me. My son was born
later without license or ring.

No one knew; and still no one knows.
In the public's eye
he is my nephew, adopted
out of mercy and need.

Five years now, and we both
have flourished, My small child
healthy, my career in Krakow
crowned with great acclaim.

And yet, there's cause for unrest.
Scandal mongers seek
to rob me of my secrets
and toss their yellow rags
at my feet.

I cannot shred gossip
or girdle my past
with this pretense -- much longer.

Miles of water stretch
between my home and freedom's harbor.
I smell its breeze and behold this moon.

Like a white conch shell,
she ensconces the echoes
of morning, of moving --

Sweet America,
you listen, you lure me west.

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