Poems By Catherine Cobb Morocco
Catherine Cobb Morocco published her first book of poetry, Moon without Craters or Shadows in 2014 (Aldrich Press). Some poems from Home Front appear in her recent chapbook, Prairie Canto (Dancing Girl Press, 2016). Her poems are also published in The Massachusetts Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, and CALYX, and in collections, Island Voices II. Poetry of Monhegan (Stone Island Press) and Unlocking the Poem (Riccio and Siegel, Editors). Catherine is the first author of two books for educators, with Jossey-Bass and Teachers College Press, on using writing to teach for deep content understanding with adolescents. She grew up in South Dakota and lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
Your Empty Pants
Dear Henry, it’s a camp here. Cockroaches and
fear of water dripping on the children’s beds.
We are basement squatters, you the lowly seaman
on your battleship. I’m not pawing London rubble
for a piano or a daughter. I see newsreels. The girls—
Judy kneads our bread dough, coils it like an anchor.
Peggy feeds diapers through the wringer, and can’t wait
to peel tinfoil off Wrigley’s gum wrappers for Victory.
I’m Fashion on the Ration with my Singer—
sewing my first slacks from your empty pants.
Yale Dinner Plate – The Tower
You would have loved living among these pinnacles—
Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, all bronze. Living in your mind,
not thinking who you left behind, cooking. Wanting me
to climb up to the carillon—two hundred eighty steps—
hear Mozart ring. Bell sounds circling the tower like birds.
I couldn’t carry up the baby, Henry. You wouldn’t see the clocks
from up there—faces green from factory smoke. Wouldn’t see
it’s time to climb down to me. You could have touched soldiers
of four wars perched up there on stone, their fearful eyes.
You couldn’t ten years ahead—you holed deep in a battleship.
McCarthyists say you’re dangerous, hosting secret meetings
at home, whispering while our children slept.
Henry, your bosses can’t have your brain, but they can take
your job, and you, just barely home, not yet out of uniform.
The girls play moving games, crossing rivers: Missouri,
Platte, the Snake—they die in blizzards, daydream of fig trees.
We imagine what we’ll grab if we have to run: their ice skates,
movie stars, my Singer, canning jars—but none of us can guess
what you love best. Henry, for God’s sake, if not for ours,
find another job.
Yale Dinner Plate: You were the Prince
A Yale dormitory for the rich, perhaps a prince:.
eleven dormers, chimneys, little hedges brocading
each doorstep. You and I had one room in the town,
a fold-down couch, a drawer for Peggy’s cradle,
soup from fish heads. His aunt loathed sending us money
for philosophy, and scorned me, progeny of a man
who drove a coal and ice truck, Henry’s father on Wall Street—
but she couldn’t let us starve. I taught tenement mothers
how to make baby food from scraps, while you wrestled ancient
Greek theology all day, coming home with no spare word for me.
We slept like mice under a manor, with just one blanket.
You, the professor, prince of principles, master of frugality.
If We Could Speak
Henry, if we could speak, I’d ask where you slept
when your ship docked at Navy Pier, when you didn’t care
to come home. As your son was born, who kept you warm?
If a father doesn’t see his boy for two years—do they bond?
I’d ask what happened as you drove a jeep into Hiroshima’s
wasteland. Tears? Ash in your lungs?
You’d love that your son wants Arabian Nights more than toys.
He has your eyes, and there’s time and quiet enough for you
to read aloud to him. The war will be old noise, Henry,
we’ll get out your violin. I’ll sew you shirts again.
I won’t ask why they named what we dropped—
Yale Dinner Plate: Tiny People in the Peas
Damn, I’d hammer these in a paper bag,
empty the splinters on piles of glass
and tractor parts out at the dump, except—
your children relish seeing tiny people
in their peas and scraping gravy off
venerable towers and trees. And you
like bearing your roasted teals in triumph
on Wedgewood china, each building
and gothic arch celebrating the Yale clan—
your silent rebuke to your mother, always
dubious of her gentler son. How you endured
that raven’s endless cawing:
You will amount to something one day—
remains your mystery.
Reek with Sun
We let it happen, Henry, in comforting each other
when you were fired. I tried remedies women whisper of—
parsley, pennyroyal tea, cramp bark with hawthorne—
yet, it’s now quickening in my belly.
We won’t wander the prairie in a covered wagon.
You’ll teach philosophy and learn to love Vermillion mud,
essences of alfalfa and manure,
Dakota’s fertile air.
I hear the art museum isn’t just teepees and buffalo skulls,
and having a marching band with majorettes
instead of an orchestra still means music teachers,
a piano waiting just for us.
We will fill our rooms with everlasting pea and trillium,
this newest fruit of our marriage will ripen and run
with its sisters and brother. Leave the doldrums, Henry,
come, let us reek with sun.