Spring 1994 • Vol. XVI No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 1994 |

Clementene

(Muriel Rukeyser often used to ask groups, from elementary-school kids to middle-aged graduate students, to write a few lines beginning I could not tell. . . . In our most secret conflicts, she believed, lie our inescapable poems. --JC) 1 I always thought she was white, I thought she was Indian because of her high-bridged nose, coin-perfect profile where she sat in an upstairs window, turning sheets sides-to-the-middle-- There are so many things wrong with this story, Muriel, I could not tell you-- Her cheeks were oddly freckled, and her hair would be squeezed down into a compact, small knot at the nape, gray as chicken wire, gray as the light, unaffectionate glance her eyes would give if she lifted them from her work. No child would interrupt her. She came twice a year to do the sewing, she slept in the house, but her meals were brought up, so that she dined by the Singer, now and then staring fixedly across the river. She joined neither white in the dining room nor

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