Helena Minton

Woodstock, Manson and the Moon

The moon was in Aquarius.
She was not at Woodstock.
Manson walked up the driveway in L.A.
How many said they were at Woodstock
or on their way but the car broke down?
She was hitchhiking in Ireland,
walking from the main road miles
to seaside hostels.
How many miles to Galway?
How many miles to the moon?
How many people were part of the murders?
One small step. How much rocket fuel?
One giant leap.
Sharon Tate was pregnant.
Mother may I?
How many details she has forgotten
in her own life, yet she remembers this,
words scrawled on the wall.
The moon was in Manson.
The Manson in the moon.
She tried to read Ulysses,
lugged in her backpack,
her friends downstairs dancing.
She read the headlines easily.
Men walked on the moon.
Manson and the girls walked up the driveway
under his spell, his thumb.
Is a murder in a house domestic?
One Manson has just died in prison at 61:
she was married twice, she had a life in prison!
Ride a cock horse to Woodstock.
How many miles to the moon?
To Manson?
How many days in prison?
X’s on the calendar. She heard the music.
Hendrix. Joplin. Cass.
How many music makers dead?
The Mansons left no widows.
The moon was in Aquarius.
Woodstock took no prisoners.

Viet Nam blew up.
How many miles to the murders?
How many murders to the mile?
In black and white
they televised the moon landing.
One by one they’ll die in prison.
A hard rain fell at Woodstock.
Mud churned in Ireland.
She had blisters on her feet.
She read the naked crowds were peaceful.
No one had seen anything like it.
The long-haired girls walked with him
along the jasmine-scented driveway…
One small step. 100,000 pairs of feet.

The Public Bride

Frothed in ivory, what language is she speaking?
She stalks through the park, trailed by a photographer
and attendant in tight magenta, no groom in sight,
giving orders into the cell in her palm.
I think she’s looking for a world to rule,
brushing the other brides aside among the willows.
She shows a sense of time, of timing matters.
She gets a leg up on the rail above the swan boats,
her six-inch candy apple heel shines, as she leans back
for the photograph. She out-swans the swans, their hiss.
We wouldn’t want to get too close, yet should we
back away or be ready to throw up our hands
when she tosses the bouquet that matches,
the love-lies-bleeding, tear-your-heart-out-red?

Pencil Sharpener

A clean swift gesture, sharpening.
It satisfies, the rotation of the wrist.
The lead point grows, turning to steel.
She leans as into a circular saw,
sparks, shavings flying, breathes
the tender cedar scent, her life honed,
hanging on the point she was trying to make.

Yet she has come undone
using the new blue plastic sharpener.
She made her point. She made her bed,
all nails, and now must lie in it,
unclenched, let go the crumpled list,
and learn to heed the hurried whisper
of the all-points bulletin.

“Picking Berries and Wild Roses”
                                        Photograph by Barbara Bosworth

These black and white afternoons
someone is lying in the grass,
exhausted, after he has dropped
a few berries in his pail,
the adult who is there because
children can’t be left alone.
Their voices ring around his head,
softly, as he dozes, wakes, his long body
blessed with the ability to nap at will,
while one child reaches into the brambles,
stuffing berries in his mouth, his arms scratched-
such luck this patch is near the house-
another pushes her face into the rose petals.
Did this happen yesterday to me
or twenty years ago to you?
He may be left there,
lying on the lawn,
as the children run, hungry,
called in by someone else,
his toothy sneakers disappearing
in the lengthening blades.

The Garden Beyond the Garden

Parvis: a garden enclosed
behind a church,
same root as paradise.
Paradise enclosed.
Why does this startle me?
To think of a fence around paradise,
a wrought iron gate,
an old fashioned weighty key,
that hangs on the deacon’s belt,
the man who locks up at sunset
in Paris. The parvis in Paris
behind Notre Dame,
where red roses grow tall, gangly,
next to the Seine.
I never thought of paradise enclosed,
but if A and E were expelled
how else to keep them
from trying to crawl back,
rattling the gate?
Who holds the key?
A man slaps it in his palm.
He has climbed the stairs
to your apartment, banged on the door,
says pack your suitcase and hurry to the station
Vite vite.
I started to go down the stairs
under Notre Dame
thinking it was there,
the memorial I had read about,
under the cathedral,
behind, in back of.
No, I never did go down, didn’t pay the 8 euros
to go down. My family was waiting.
I saw the word scratched in stone
capital letters, gouged, stark,
not sculpted, not gothic or baroque.
The long “A”
even the “C” is pointed,
the international word
I found the parvis behind.
I never went down. I could read:
1962, it has been here that long.
It was there when I was in Paris before
but I never knew about it.
Paradise has this black iron fence around it,
with a clochard asleep in July
in his torn overcoat by the tall roses.
Teeming hordes of people in front
of Notre Dame, but only the two of us,
the clochard and me
back here, in the Square Ile de France,
a block away, next to the Seine,
where policemen are swimming in sunlight,
in flippers, masks, and wet suits,
a Sunday morning maneuver, stealthily moving in the water.
The cathedral has its own enclosed garden,
this is the parvis beyond the garden,
the square beyond the square, secluded
yet out in the open, a respite
on a hot afternoon.
I know I can go back.
It will be there.
I can count on it.
Was I scared to go down?
Couldn’t persuade anyone
to go with me.
I thought it was closed.
I know what I’ll find,
below the parvis,
the tiny lights, phrases
of the deported poets on the walls,
the one word visible.

Copyright  © 2013 Helena Minton

Helena Minton is the author of The Canal Bed, with Alice James Books and The Gardener and the Bees with March Street Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including "edna," "Four Corners," Parting Gifts," and "Red River Review." Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, including Soujourner: A Feminist Anthology and Merrimack: An Anthology."She works as a librarian outside of Boston.