10 May 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Conversation Overheard on the Road to Salem' by Laura Solomon

Conversation Overheard on the Road to Salem

Think you're so fancy in that pointy hat,
with the audacity to just assume your black floating cape is the best.
Those warts are only stick-on, m'dear.
I can see right through you.

Those newts you keep in jars, gloating of their powers,
are just as plastic as dolls.
Pathologically competitive, that's your problem –
if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.
Pretending you know how to walk the line,
you're barely balancing as we ease on down this road.

Still, for all my bitching, we're on the same side,
we'll hold onto each other when the deal goes down –
you pretend to float and I'll pretend to drown.

Laura Solomon came to prominence back in the 1990s when she had two novels published by Tandem Press (Black Light and Nothing Lasting) - which I remember as really exciting, because she was so young. Since then she's been mostly overseas, in the UK, but has continued writing novels. In Vitro, from which this poem comes, is her debut poetry collection, which has recently been published by HeadworX.

The poems in In Vitro are mostly told in the first person by a wide variety of narrators, from a fertility scientist of dubious sanity, to the ghost of a man who was hit seven times by lightning, to Guy Fawkes, to crows and bats.

I chose this poem, again with a first-person narrator, because I was haunted by that last line 'you pretend to float and I'll pretend to drown'. Drowning witches was one way to test if they were in fact witches - the idea being that if they floated then they were a witch, but if they drowned then they were innocent, and dead.

There are many other Tuesday poems for your enjoyment. You'll find them here: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/


Ben Hur said...

Yes, that is one of the great conumdrums of the whole witch hysteria: you have to die to prove your innocence.

It was a conspiracy by the patriarchal church to increase their power and influence by persecuting women who today we would probably describe as naturopaths or herbalists.

Ben Hur said...

Spelling error: I meant "conundrums"!

AJ Ponder said...

Like you, I absolutely adore the last line - and the other little hints like "pathologically competitive" that indicate the poet is more than she's giving away.