SPOTLIGHT: STRESS POSITIONS by Marion Deutsche Cohen

Dream of Personal vs. Political
1990

I am divided in two.
Well, in two but not quite divided.
On my right breast sucks My-Child
the child I know, the child who knows my lingo, the child with the perfect
smell.
On the left nurses A-Child
Everybody’s Child, All-Children, and her, too, I cradle.
She is poor and sick, from a poor sick country, and she needs my milk,
needs my rocking.
This division feels good, peaceful, correct
despite the fact that All-Children suddenly spits up, chunks of ice-milk,
shaped like wax from a much-used candle
and despite that All-Children’s mother is here, to my right, scolding
All-Children for wasting food and telling me to forget the whole thing
and despite that I am giving All-Children’s mother advice, like I give
advice to mothers in the square, like I like too much to give advice
and despite that My-Child has finished nursing and has run off
hidden by the bushes, looking for sticks.
Yes, this scene still works for me
until I notice that, beyond All-Children, waits a line, a plane of All-Adults.
Also poor and sick, from poor sick countries, also needing rocking.
This feels less good. “I’m afraid,’” I murmur.
“I’m afraid of so many.
“I’m afraid of their big heads.”

Still Life with Capital Punishment and War
dream, 1995

The guests are tuning up.
The hostess waves the baton.
And then someone brings in the two condemned men.
The chandelier swings the signal and the great chairs are lowered.
More guests arrive as the men are positioned.
I try to stop it.
I flit from head to head.
I am the little birdie who tells them.
But I am too little.
And there are too many.

Then war.
Everybody’s enlisting.
One man in particular has packed his bag.
I pull at his collar. “What about your little son?”
But the son, too, has packed his bag.
And the station is lined with such families.
They hug and weep as they do the wrong thing.

Legal killing, both, and not the solution.
But I can’t stop it.
They want it.
It’s what they want.

Dream of Setting Limits

I’ve hosted birthday parties, Chanukah parties, Christmas parties, wedding
parties so now they’re asking me to host a hanging party.
Yep, there are a few people they want to hang and they want me to host
the hanging.
“No way,” I exclaim. “Capital punishment in the country, capital
punishment in the state, capital punishment in the city, but I’m definitely
not allowing capital punishment in my own living room.”
Sure, I make up problems for the departmental final in my living room and
sure, I make out checks to the IRS in my living room, but setting out
refreshments for a hanging
is something to which I can say no.

All Night Long

All night long the powers that be were finding in their records that a particular two-day-old baby had killed somebody. “How can a two-day-old baby kill anybody?” I asked. “It can’t,” they agreed, “but it’s in the records so we have to execute it. We have to go by what’s in the records.”

“But…” I kept saying. “It can’t be in the records if it didn’t happen. You have to re-check the records.”

I kept looking at the baby. It was a regular cute non-surreal baby. And that dream ended with me saying but.

How to Tell the Kids

My mother told me the good news, meaning the facts of life, mostly how the baby gets into the mother’s stomach. We were doing the supper dishes and I asked, “do they talk?” and she answered “they CAN.”

But I don’t remember exactly who told me the bad news, like war, slavery, holocaust, death penalty. I don’t remember how they told me. Maybe they didn’t tell me. Maybe that news was so bad I had to find it out for myself. Do they talk? I probably wondered. And no, they probably can’t.

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