The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it stops turning. —Natalie Babbit
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Please forgive the pun – it was irresistible. The “Ladies” are four female poets from the Western Hemisphere born in the first week of August:
Aline Murray Kilmer, born August 1, 1888
Anne Hebert, born August 1, 1916
Lorna Goodison, born August 1, 1947
Allison Adele hedge coke, born August 4, 1958
Although their journeys are very different, in each case their writing has been influenced by loss and hardship.
lover of light
by Aline Murray Kilmer
WHY don’t you go back to the sea, darling?
I am not one of those who would hold you back;
The sea is the woman you really love,
So let his be the arms that bend you.
Your bright blue eyes are sailor’s eyes,
Your hungry heart is also that of a sailor.
And I know every port you pass through
Will give birth to a daughter both beautiful and wise
Who learned light love from the eyes of a sailor.
If you ever go back to the sea, darling,
I will miss you – yes, can you doubt it?
But women have been through worse than that
So why should we care about it?
Take your restless heart to the stormy sea,
Your light, light love for a lighter girl
Who will smile when you come and smile when you pass.
Here you can only confuse me.
Oh, I think you better get back to sea!
“Light Lover” is in the public domain
Aline Murray Kilmer (1888-1941) American poet, children’s book author, essayist, and from 1908 until her death in 1918, the wife of Joyce Kilmer, a poet remembered primarily for her poem “Trees”, and for die young in the ‘war to end all wars.’ She was a mother of five children, but their eldest daughter suffered from infantile paralysis and died aged four in 1917, shortly before her husband was deployed to France.He was killed in 1918 at age 31 by a bullet. sniper during the Second Battle of the Marne. Aline Murray Kilmer turned to writing children’s books and publishing her poetry to support her four remaining children. Her second son, Michael, died at the age of 11 in 1927.
by Anne Hebert
All it took was a light note
By a quiet slave
A single note a supple moment
For the muffled clamor of offense
Tucked in the back of the black veins
Rise and burst in the air without commotion
The master not knowing what to do
In the face of such a tumult
Order the piano to be closed
– translated by A.Z. Foreman
The original French:
Just a light note
With one finger slapped
By a quiet slave
A single note held for a moment
So that the deaf clamor of outrages
Buried in the hollow of black veins
Rises and discharges into the still air
The master doesn’t know what to do
In the face of this tumult
Order the piano to be closed
“The Piano/The Piano” by Anne Hébert: Poems, © 1975 by Anne Hébert – Musson Book Company
Anne Hebert (1916-2000) French Canadian poet, novelist and short story writer. Her father was a poet and literary critic, and she began writing poetry at a very young age—by her early twenties her poems had been published in several periodicals. His first collection of poetry, Dreams in Balance, published in 1942, won the Prix David du Québec. Much of his poetry reflects the tragic untimely death of his sister and a cousin. Hébert earned his living in the 1950s working for Radio Canada and the National Film Board of Canada. She has won Canada’s highest literary honour, the Governor General’s Award, three times, twice for fiction and once for poetry. His best-known work is his 1970 historical novel Kamauraskaa classic of Quebec and Canadian literature. Kamauraska won the Prix des libraires de France and the Grand Prix of the Royal Academy of the French language of Belgium. Hébert died of bone cancer at age 83 in January 2000.
Tribute to the mother of Jamaican art
by Lorna Goodison
She was the nameless woman who created
images of her children sold away from her.
She hung her wooden babies on a rope
around her neck, before eating, she fed them.
Touches of pounded yam and plantains
with sealed lips, always urging them to sip water.
She sculpted them with absinthe, teeth and nails
her first tools, later she wields a dull blade.
His saliva cleansed faces and limbs; pitch oil
of his skin darkened them. When woodworms
bored in their bellies she was heating castor oil
they purged. She learned her art by breaking
hard rocks. She did not sign her work.
“Praise to the Mother of Jamaican Art” by Collected Poems, © 2017 by Lorna Goodison – Carcanet Press
Lorna Goodison (1947 – ) Jamaican poet, writer and painter; she is born
in Kingston on the first day of August, which is Emancipation Day in Jamaica. “I don’t think it was an accident that I was born on the first of August, and I don’t think it was an accident that I was given the gift of poetry, so I take that to mean that I should write to about these people and their condition, and I will bear the burden of what they endured and how they triumphed until the day I die.” Goodison was the first woman to be named Jamaica’s Poet Laureate (2017-2021). She was awarded the 1999 Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica for literary contributions, the 2018 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize in Poetry, and the 2019 Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry; his poetry collections include I Become My Mother; Oracabess; and Bring salt and light. Goodison is also a talented painter and the covers of her books are usually illustrated with her works.
by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Just opposite Turk Street, south side intersection Hyde,
in the building where 911 won’t call a rookie,
a man beats his wife,
the twentieth time or more, their children bawl.
Over here, in this apartment on the third floor,
above blazing red neon signs highlighting
the Triple Deuce Club downstairs, I listen while
wired white hippies move furniture on checkered tiles
across my sister’s vaulted plaster ceiling until 3 a.m.
Dragging me around with a couch like I’m rearranging the heavens in my head.
Me, I sleep. Or try. I can’t do anything else.
Every day I slip away in search of a job, slipping into the
The streets of San Francisco
sinuous, curved, like turbulence.
Dawn brings out sweet Cambodian street children
in a Feinstein-era playground,
still filled with hypes, wines, yellow-green from the day before,
still smelled of piss and lizard.
These kids though, they’re climbing on steel swings,
fifteen, twenty feet tall,
as if they were walking on common lines in concrete.
Easy balance, thanks Mohawk.
Their sisters cause a paper war in the street,
block party closed.
Flying paper, I
grab a piece, fold it in an original way, create
a false financial pyramid, reject it,
watch little girls with shiny black ponytails make confetti
for this continuous parade of tickers,
just opposite Turk Street, Hyde Junction.
“Street Confetti” from Off-season city hose, © 2005 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke – Coffee House Press
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke (1958 – ) American poet and publisher born in Texas, raised in North Carolina and Canada, of mixed Native American and European descent. She dropped out of high school to become a field worker and sharecropper in North Carolina, but earned her GED and took classes at North Carolina State University, before fleeing domestic violence in California. She went on to earn an AFAW in Creative Writing from the former Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and an MFA from Vermont College. His poetry collections include Dog Road Womanwinner of the American Book Prize of the Before Columbus Foundation, Off-season city hoseand Blood race. She has worked as a mentor and teacher on reservations, in urban areas, in juvenile institutions, mental institutions, in prisons, with migrant workers and youth at risk. She also founded and ran youth and worker outreach programs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.