After Arguing About Divorce, Two People Look at Photographs of Margaret Mead in Samoa and Imagine Other Lives
William Kelley Woolfitt
To stay married, to homestead at the head of Brushy Fork--
in the farmhouse they refurbished, with deer guards
on the dogwood and pear trees, and the coddled ram
she won’t let him butcher, and his ornamental carp
stirring up the pond reclaimed from an ore pit—
is to decline the Samoan woman, who squats
near her woven house, and shaves pliable strips
from a mulberry trunk, and then beats, overlaps
and pounds the bark-strips to fashion a flat tapa sheet,
which she patterns with carbon paper, and then paints.
And to forget the cloth-maker's long labor for a tapa skirt
or drape, one more keepsake for Margaret, which fast
unravels at the first licks of rain.
And to renounce the cloth-maker’s peevish daughter,
who kills the flies that plague her, who clasps a mango pit
and two lava chips in her hand.
And to refuse the adolescent boys who curlicue swirls
of blue and red paint on their cheeks and chins, smear
coconut oil to gloss their chests for the dance,
and scatter from the fury of wind-spat sand.
What is ripe speeds to rot. To plant maize
and peruse llama catalogs and hobby-farm--
to spend their evenings couch-flopped with reruns
of Auction Hunter, the sputter of microwave popcorn,
his feet on the apple-crate table he never varnished,
her unraveling back past the dropped stitch--
is to renounce the drained water tank that hid Margaret
and the Polish draftsman from the hurricane-blotted sky,
the two of them hunkering under half a roof, while the wind
caterwauled like a ravenous god, and snuffed the moon,
and tumbled Samoan homes--
until the storm wore itself out,
and the hiders woke up. And knew they had to see
the ruins, and crept into shafts of daylight,
blinking and suffused.