from Girls' School
The Physical Plant as Prologue
Everything here measures: weight, effort, sin—
and everything costs in this seclusion
of daughters, the place an ark—its hold
all of a kind in an archaic, combed
order: straightened teeth, trained spines, the chapel’s
benches in rigid rows before crimson
kneeling pillows, slim beds in dormitories,
the muted ticking of practice rooms, the stalls
just-mucked, the halls humid with breathing.
And in the brushes, their hair—enough to line
the nests of a hundred generations of birds.
Bells sound them from sleep, and their imaginations
rise, recite all they have been told: the curtains
on fire, the beds, nightgowns, their hair, their hair.
They’ve practiced this escape before
and know to close the windows last, descend
the darkened flights of stairs in practiced wordlessness
to line up, barefoot, on the dew-wet lawn,
face the building, pretend to watch it burn.
Beginning Sculpture: The Subtractive Method
The girls sit before the assignment—identical
blocks of salt—and from tall, precarious stools,
look down into blank planes of possibility. In the end,
though, the only choice is to carve something
smaller. So they begin. Rough chunks like hail
fall before the rasps and chisels’ beveled
edges. Salt permeates this air as it has
for years, the floor gritty, their hands, eyes,
even the skylights made opaque with it—
disappearing not unlike the way it is
subtracted from similar blocks, in the fields,
before the tongues of the horses.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro