Ann Slayton‘s poems move with a finely crafted deliberation, reflectiveness and a sense of place — several evoke a temper of New England through theme and character, as in “We Have from the First Been Singers,” a poem in the voice of Anne Bradstreet (1612-16722) and “The Spell,” which has allusions to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. And then, as if in counterpoint, there are the raucous poems, “Partly Mozart, Mostly Turkey Club” and “Everyone Was a Real One But Gertrude.”
Every One Was a Real One But Gertrude
Alice and I sat in the dark
shadows of the salon drinking tea
and talking hats with Fernande,
while from the hive that Gertrude
made with Ernest and Pablo and
a heap of Persian rugs
came a steady hum.
Alice was saying it was her job
to keep the wives occupied so
Gertrude could talk to Genius:
The masterpiece is opposed
to the business of living
which is relation and necessity
Once, Gertrude told her she should
write a book and call it
Wives of Geniuses I Have Sat With.
Fernande didn’t think it was funny
And she was tired of talking hats.
She bolted up and strode to the armchair
where the queen bee was enthroned.
The droning stopped. Fernande tipped
her teacup and the stream pooled
in Gertrude capacious lap. Masterpiece,
my ass. Fernande slapped her fanny
and yanked her husband up beside her.
He’s not your Pablo, he’s mine. And
that one’s not your Ernest, he’s Hadley’s.
You want the continuous present?
Let’s go to the movies.
Later, we heard that
Katherine Anne Porter paid
a visit to la rue de Fleurus.
What a dazzler, I bet, with her
terrific legs and her emeralds plunging.
When she left she said
Gertrude Stein was a barbarian.
Ann Slayton is the author of a chapbook, The Music Beginning Here (Sybil-Child Press). Her poems have been published in Ms. Magazine, The Southern Poetry Review, Poetry Now, Pembroke Magazine.