Only The Words
Published 1983 by Shakespeare’s Sister’s Press. 30 Poems.
The work reflects the family’s move from Concord to Oakland, California, a more urban, diverse environment.
“You can be proud. I am glad to have read this book, Judith, and to keep it in my collection.” Claire Baker, Poet
“It is a great joy to [read] a poet who can express so much about the tangible experience of being a woman, without a shade either of rancor or of affectation; who can affirming without whitewashing,; who sees so much to hold and remember, and to love. Congratulations on the good work you are doing..” Nedda Davis, Editor, WELCOME HOME.
“Your lovely book of poems arrived the same day I entered the hospital. It is such a treasure to have by my side, over this period of time, to read and reread. I have my favorites, ‘Family Herstory, Birth’ is so moving to me; “El Mojadito’, “Cape Cod Pond”, “Kassie”, “Sand Castle”…With a grateful heart, Doris Beatty, reader.
RUNNERS BY THE SHORE
There must be messages in it:
all these tom-tommed feet,
on so often-packed a path,
with so much fierce continuance.
They must carry messages,
whose eyes, looking, see nothing.
I have heard of this before,
this running and running,
these rocky muscles, and I say
that at the end of the trail
the runner, sweat-bathed,
sometimes fallen, blurts his message
in proud gasping syllables.
Thus am I here,
walking this shore track,
looking for the ending place,
waiting for messages.
At the Foot of Mount Sinai
Not temple; not church; not mosque
sun stars moons clouds rain.
Not atrium; inner sanctum; altar; aisle
but walled circle
all sides equal
all beginnings endings
Not doors; gates; windows
but spaces left to enter
one north one east one west one south.
Not cedar; sandstone; marble; stressed concrete
but adobe alone and no higher.
Not designed chosen won architected paid approved
one each brick from every earth
by sweat consecrated
by one sun stroked.
Not statues symbols carvings etchings mosaics
but earth by Who-Gives-Earth
bricks by even-who-has-nothing-other-to-give.
Not services sacrifices rituals rites
but prayers by woman and man
kneeling standing lying sitting
whispering singing chanting shouting:
Not raids bombings hostages heros territories victories
Long ago, in some other where
The twists of her soft breath
Bent another air
Through this same silver.
To chase a grey day’s haze,
She too lit a fire on a grate
And followed the five-lined maze
To some sunnier place.
But where? Who was she?
Who ordered my odd-fingered flute’s
Making at Hayne’s hands, and set free
Its first staggering, sweet speech?
Did someone exhort her to it?
Or was she eager, like me
To learn to wiggle through it
Into the music beyond?
Poems from ONLY THE WORDS Recorded by poet on April 15, 2015
Our second child, Kate, was born ten months before we moved to Oakland, so I had a seven year old and a toddler when we arrived. By this time, I was not only determined to continue “being a poet”—ie not only writing poetry but doing readings and sending work out for publication—but I had discovered that I was a playwright as well. So I was juggling volunteer work at the local school, a babysitting co-op, poetry groups and readings, and playwriting workshops, not to mention the shopping, cooking, carpooling, and other chores of homemaking. While most of the college-educated women I knew had opted for the going-back-to-work choice, I found pretty much everything I was doing seemed to be the “real me”, genuinely engrossing. It felt right to be there for the first words and first steps and first day at school. I liked the idea that I was helping my husband with his career, if only by taking care of the home front. (It was also darn interesting for someone from my modest background to participate in some of the upscale entertainments and insider conversations of a large SF law firm.) The first year in Oakland, I started doing drama with Rebecca’s second grade, and launched 25 years of volunteering in classrooms, which is where I learned the playwriting craft. I was fascinated with teaching at several schools in different parts of Oakland, and really getting to know my new city. While I felt a little embarrassed at the time that I “wasn’t working”, and in fact received many disdainful comments for my choice, from women as well as men, looking back I feel extremely privileged to have had all these experiences. Though I kid about having been a “kept woman”, the truth is many women do not have the choice, and wish they did, and I now feel tremendously lucky for it.
I would like my readers to understand that what I have to say comes from a housewife, and shows that housewives have as valid and perceptive view of society as someone in any other job.