Rita Mae Reese

At 36, Hulga Speaks of Love

In wine is truth and in rum freedom,
            the freedom to get up from the porch
   with her mother still talking.
In rum is the Judge in her room,
          sitting beside the books behind glass.
   Love should be full of anger, he intones,
         and she nods, sits on the bed, takes off her shoes.
Judge weighs evidence against Hulga day and night,
                         mostly night.

Love, she repeats, but behind her absent gaze
         at the saint in the corner
    she is parting a pink gold shower of hair,
          dividing it upon a back bare its length.
    She had thought she was all done with asking
but in rum is (God help her) the consent to love.

In rum is a radio playing
            so far away she can’t make out the tune,
   a shadow of sound slipping toward Hulga
            through years and hundreds of miles
   from the girl in the apartment downstairs.
This the only music she listens to.

She is bending to kiss exactly the hollow of her back,
                        exactly the spot
   best suited to receive first [her] lips
         and then [her] cheek.
   Love, and do what you like, he mutters. Hulga is
         multiplied by the dozens of women
she has never seduced. She is cast into a legion of swine
         sailing over a cliff.     And she is flying.

Rita Mae Reese is the author of The Alphabet Conspiracy. The title poem from that book was turned into an animated video by Flavor for the Association of Independent Commercial Producers Midwest Trade Show. She has received numerous awards, including a “Discovery”/The Nation award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Visit her here.