Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Where the poem comes from: Catherine Morocco

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Where the poem comes from: Catherine Morocco

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Catherine Morocco and I met because she is a close friend of a close friend who decided we should get to know each other since we are both writers of poetry. Meeting both Cathy and her poetry was a great pleasure. We also share the coincidence of being former students of Ottone Riccio (“Ricky”) and having poems that are part of the book, " Unlocking the Poem," by him and Ellen Beth Siegel.

In addition to studying with Ricky at the Boston Center for Adult Education, Cathy has also studied with some other poets and teachers I admire, including Afaa Michael Weaver, Tom Daley, and Kathleen Spivack.

Cathy teaches an introductory and an advanced poetry writing course, has seen her poems appear in some well-respected journals, and recently completed a collection of poems that grew out of an experience of illness. This is a poem from that collection:

Son’s Story

I’m shaking scarves over my mother’s bed,

where there’s no evidence of thought.

In one of seven silken scarves, lithe women

sway around a mandala. Their skirts are painted

amber, apricot, and blue. Each sylph is named

after a continent: Antarctica’s fur headdress flames,

blue dolphins leap, swim at her feet.

My mother’s eyes are closed, while Oceana’s

teasing head is crowned in grass and leaves.

She holds a plate of purple fish. I spread

Toros Magnifico around my mother’s feet. A picador

thrusts his pic to pierce the bull into the ring.

In corners, matadors and bull horns’ swelling.

Velvet ladies hurtle roses to the bloody kill.

Just lying here, my mother is a dreamless spot

without a nerve. I cannot stir her. Is she struggling

with shades? Will she open up her eyes to see the golds,

smell fish, flowers, blood? I tie a corner

of the bull fight to a corner of the dance, join seven

scarves into one rope, lands billowing. If I throw it,

she must cling. I’ll pull her to her body, knot by knot.

In talking about how “Son’s Story” came to be written, Cathy says:

“This poem is part of a larger collection of poems, “Brain Storm. Poems of Injury and Recovery.” The poems draw on a diary I kept in the hospital, full of questions, observations, and "to do" lists to help me cope with fear and uncertainty. The diary, as well as memories, observations, hallucinations, and stories from my family members, became subjects for poetry. That material included moments of intense beauty and humor. "Son's Story" appears in The Spoon River Poetry Review and recently won the Dana Foundation prize for poetry about the brain.

“Son's Story was triggered by an experience with my son, who visited me in the hospital when I was recovering from surgery for a hematoma (bleeding around the brain). I was comatose part of the time. My son brought me presents of face cream and feather butterflies from Vogue, where he was working at the time. He also brought seven silk scarves from the Vogue clothes closet that is full of shoes and dresses for photo shoots. The scarves have colorful prints of bullfights, mythology, and the Statue of Liberty. Although the scarves are real and I treasure them, much of the poem is from my imagination--the son lays the scarves over the sleeping mother, he joins the scarves to pull the mother out of her deep sleep. Later, when I asked my son what my illness was like for him, he said, ‘I didn't understand any of the medical stuff. I thought I could help your metaphysical self’.”

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