Artwork for Tammy Robacker's poems

Three Poems
Tammy Robacker


Ornament thyself, O dear canvas, in my old
blackletter sentencing. My Gothic-scripted family.

Their language of a thousand cuts. Word symbols
graphic as swastikas. Our Germanic lineage sharp

with angles and edges. Heart shapes and tulip motifs
overrun in vines and weeds. Collage of bad marriages.

Strangulated tree of pious baptisms and early deaths.
Twiggy nests now fraying embroidery. Earthen dirge

peopled with secrets and rural husbandries. We’re folk
herders of pigs, chickens, maidens, goats, and shit.

Here, our red Rorschach-mirrored quail birds meet
their sneaky cousin beaks dead center to kiss.

~ ~ ~

My Father Does Not Remember What Time I Was Born

When you forgot I was born,
             did you also forget
                          how to breathe?

How did one lung
             puff up your chest
                          while the other one seized.

                          Had you taken up other
             important business?
Had you no alpha-

                          blood to spare? No
             bent knee for my mother.
No obedience-crouched haunches

even the common dog
             can muster. Father,
                          were you never there?

Did you not wipe clean
             my mother’s sleep-
                          greased face. Were you

                          not ice cooling her lips?
             Were you not tsk-
tsking away her pain?

                          Were you impotent
             finally, when I spurted
my own crude sentiments

from her birth canal?
             Did my placenta hush your smirk?
                          Did I stun you silent, Father,

with red ugliness?
             Did my purpling fury
                          steal your squall?

~ ~ ~

Questions for Ouija

Ouija, what ills will you divine
beneath your duplicitous
planchette? Its heart-shaped
face, sly with one eye,
spying on my dead ancestors.

Will you recover the family
rouladen recipe my oma hid?
Or uncover the secret knives
she slid under her bed?

Ouija, what will you describe
about my dead mother? Is she still
young and dissatisfied
on the other side?
Is she complaining
or growing kinder?

Ouija, I’m afraid
of what you might find.

Will you ransack
my father’s pants?
Discover phone numbers
on tavern matchbook covers.
Search his collar for lipstick
and long blonde hairs?

Ouija, does he smell there
of L’Air du Temps?

Tammy Robacker’s Comments

To write about shame, for many of us, is to write about hidden injuries or traumas that have made us hate who we are. The poems I share here with FRiGG are currently drawn from a poetry manuscript I am working on that confronts a dark secret in my own family story. As a poet, to say the secret by writing it out into the work is a way to explore its damage, its origins, its victims, and its journey through the years. Naming your shame becomes its own kind of miraculous extraction and cleansing of it. It’s quite profound.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 48 | The Shame Issue | Spring/Summer 2016