Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

John Tranter

Smaller Women

Smaller Women

Smaller Women

I resigned to tell mother a secret sign,
insolent napkin. But it’s natural to commit a crime,
the second dose of germs that make you cross,
and then the moral lapses teach us
     with their beaks.

Among the crimes you botched, were you not
floating up to heaven in a frock? ‘Bless you,
bless the solemn symphony of duty.’
Grudging duty, that is, to quickly quell
     a pallid polka

or pump up a yelping shiver to a spasm,
the kind that young gentleman only hear about
rattling their rusty skates among the rafters.
I came here young, able and long-shanked
     and left limping.

Oh, tell it to the horse marines, that if we were
agreeable, why, we were also – just a little –
ashamed of our pink hissy fits. Thus taught,  
‘Shiftless, have done for, knock and enter.’
     So, knock it off.

As the slumbrous subject of heaven glares
down on us, do the children aspire to a better
pedagogy? Bless your more sensitive arm.
And I may advertise – forgive me –
     a  scribbled graph

that would paper over the filthy morass
to which you now offer amorous admission,
lures of tissue-paper, to clog the pale
epochs yawning on the baroque porch,
     your careless greed.
Close

Smaller Women

I resigned to tell mother a secret sign,
insolent napkin. But it’s natural to commit a crime,
the second dose of germs that make you cross,
and then the moral lapses teach us
     with their beaks.

Among the crimes you botched, were you not
floating up to heaven in a frock? ‘Bless you,
bless the solemn symphony of duty.’
Grudging duty, that is, to quickly quell
     a pallid polka

or pump up a yelping shiver to a spasm,
the kind that young gentleman only hear about
rattling their rusty skates among the rafters.
I came here young, able and long-shanked
     and left limping.

Oh, tell it to the horse marines, that if we were
agreeable, why, we were also – just a little –
ashamed of our pink hissy fits. Thus taught,  
‘Shiftless, have done for, knock and enter.’
     So, knock it off.

As the slumbrous subject of heaven glares
down on us, do the children aspire to a better
pedagogy? Bless your more sensitive arm.
And I may advertise – forgive me –
     a  scribbled graph

that would paper over the filthy morass
to which you now offer amorous admission,
lures of tissue-paper, to clog the pale
epochs yawning on the baroque porch,
     your careless greed.

Smaller Women

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère